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Pitch holds up with grassy patches, Indians unhappy

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By Khurram Habib

Chennai, Feb 8 (IANS) The MA Chidambaram wicket, that has patches of grass at places and is bald otherwise as well as the Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) ball have come into spotlight after both Ishant Sharma and R Ashwin questioned them after the fourth day’s play during the first Test against England.

While India pacer Ishant, who took his 300th Test wicket on the fourth day, called the surface as flat as a road on the first two days, off-spinner Ashwin said the SG Test ball’s seam is not holding up after 40 overs possibly due to the wicket.

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“First two days it felt like we were playing on the road, but on the fourth day it started turning a bit and we caught a bit of a break. Even on the first two days I thought we bowled well even though we weren’t getting much help,” said Ishant after the fourth day’s play.

Ashwin said he has never seen the SG ball tear through the seam like this in his Test career.

“It was very bizarre for us. I have never seen an SG ball tear through the seam like that. It could well be a combination of how hard the pitch was on the first two days. Even in the second innings after the 35th or the 40th over, the seam started to peel off. It was quite bizarre. I haven’t seen an SG ball in the last so many years [behave like this]. But yeah, maybe it could be because of the pitch or hardness of it through the centre which is making the ball scuffed up like that,” Ashwin told the media after the end of the day’s play.

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England made 578 in the first innings while India were bowled out for 337. England then could score 178 and ended went to stumps on fourth day at 39 for one.

Asked about the seam of the ball, a senior SG executive expressed surprise saying that this is the same ball that they have been supplying and nothing has changed.

“Nothing has changed in the seam. Even when it (the wicket) was flat, we [India] were getting the wickets. Not that there have been no wickets. Joe Root was batting exceptionally well,” Paras Anand, marketing director of SG balls, told IANS on Monday.

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“The seam (in the SG ball we supply) has always been more pronounced as the bowlers like to grip it. It is just that this time we supplied more number of balls with pronounced seam than earlier. Earlier, there would be eight-nine in a dozen with pronounced seam. Now, we have become more consistent and ensured that a majority is like that,” said Anand.

The MA Chidambaram wicket is a red-soil surface which experts believe causes more wear and tear on the ball.

“On red soil surfaces, the ball suffers wear and tear more, gets dried up more. There is also dust as well,” Daljeet Singh, a former chief of the BCCI pitches and grounds committee, told IANS.

“There are patches of grass and some patches are bald. The pitch has broken at places, but no delivery has gone on two bounces to the wicket-keeper, no one got hit on the head or face. It is a Test match pitch, and is lasting five days. It is good. But yes, if Ashwin is saying, then it should be pondered over as he is a local lad.”

Five pitches with “decent amount of grass” were prepared for the Test. However, the grass was shaved off prior to the Test but not completely.

It is possibly for this reason that the wicket has lasted till the fifth day.

–IANS

kh/qma

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