India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 2nd day

Mohali pitch presents alternative reality

Though the final scoreline followed the familiar script, the pitch and the performers during the first day in Mohali were distinctly different from the rest of the series

Sharda Ugra

March 15, 2013

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

Ravindra Jadeja picked up three wickets on the second day , India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 2nd day, March 15, 2013
The leader of India's spin trio was neither R Ashwin or Pragyan Ojha, but it was the third spinner, Ravindra Jadeja © BCCI

On Friday, Mohali belonged to a parallel universe. The PCA Stadium looked like what it always does, the eventual scoreline at stumps was like what has been in the series so far, but in between the first ball and the last, much was turned on its head. In appearance itself, the pitch best known to Punjab and India's cricketers, had transmogrified into an alien grasslessness. In keeping with it, the performances of the teams also witnessed significant alterations.

Mohali's reputation as a utopia for seamers has rightly been diminishing, but this season Punjab have won four out of four home Ranji Trophy matches outright. Ten of 14 first-class innings played in Mohali this season have not gone beyond 260. What Australia's batsmen found though was a welcome personality switch. On the best batting wicket of the tour, they chose to approach the innings as if this were not their fifth innings in India, but their first. With caution, with circumspection, without open declarations of 'positivity.' It may have produced the best opening stand of their tour so far - 139 - the day ended for Australia at 273 for 7. Day 1 in Chennai remains their best day of the tour, but even there, 380 was to be inadequate.

Like they have been all series, India's spinners were in play, but the leader of the pack on Friday was unforeseen. It wasn't the tall, sun-glassed, haughty offspinner with his corkscrew yo-watch-my-revs action. It wasn't the chubby-faced left-arm spinner who finally got a game, but had few chances to make some of his famous finger-waggling appeals. The main man was India's third-change spinner instead, curly mop over green sunglasses to the offspinner's red and Twenty20 reputation in sudden shape-shift, on a wicket not meant to serve his brand of bowling.

More followed. The single Australian middle order man to get past fifty was the last man in to the XI due to the benching of four others. The guy behind the benching, Australia's captain and best batsman, only lasted one ball. His intent morphed into braggadocio and his quicksilver feet were found stuck in quicksand. Surely not of the kind he and his management had drawn a line in, a few days ago.

The final sign of the altered reality came when India's reedy strike bowler took two wickets in three balls in the 94th over of the day. He was bowling with a ball that was so tattered and worn that ten minutes later the umpires were forced to change it.

All around the baffling unpredictability, the script of the 2013 India v Australia series stayed the way India would want it. There will be much delight in how the day panned out because India's bowlers were able to make the most of a wicket that bore little resemblance to the beasts offered up in Chennai and Hyderbad. That they were able to cut through Australia's batting line-up - two wickets at a time - is all the evidence they need of its fragility.

R Ashwin pulled out a full repertoire of conventional offspin, with the rare carrom-ball and variations of pace and Pragyan Ojha took some time to find a line that could ask questions. India's go-to bowler, however, ended up being the man who was the last in the attack. Ravindra Jadeja was brought on a little under half an hour before lunch and bowled a ten-over spell on either side of the break. His ability to nag and probe, asking the batsmen to make the play had an effect that was not instant but produced impact that was to reverberate through the rest of the day.

In the morning, there was little turn and few moments of variable bounce. But in Jadeja's tenth over, plenty happened. One shot through at ankle height for Cowan and two balls later, Warner stepped out, but had the delivery jump up a little and nibble at bat and pad to offer a juicy lob in front of him. Dhoni came racing from behind the batsman to take the catch. Off the very next ball, Michael Clarke, at No. 3 for the second time in his career, fell back on his template against spinners - Operation Domination. He stepped out to Jadeja bowling one at 90kph, watched the ball turn past his bat and reach Dhoni before he could blink.

Jadeja didn't get his hat-trick but he had set Australia onto a nervous wobble that turned into the dismissal of Phillip Hughes 12 runs and 69 balls later. India were able to press forward, despite Steven Smith's handsome unbeaten effort, with Ashwin and Ojha picking up a wicket each. Ishant made the most of being able to reverse the old worn-out ball, bowling two batsmen in his 18th over of the day.

India's bowling today was soaked in sweat and toil, rather than being dependent on the pitch and batsmen's ineptitude. The Mohali pitch is said to contain a higher degree of clay content. It binds together particularly well, helps keep the grass alive and in theory, is meant to assist seam movement. When left to dry, it doesn't crumble into powder like red-soil pitches. When it comes apart, it does like Australia's batting has this series. In clumps.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Temuzin on (March 18, 2013, 13:05 GMT)

Posted by Freewheeler on (March 16, 2013, 0:42 GMT) Jadeja has been a pleasant surprise. A closer look at domestic statistics is far more revealing - his bowling average tops that of Ojha and Ashwin. Add to that his ability to play a scrappy and long innings (admittedly has not flowered in that respect), and his fielding, and he becomes a terrific asset to the team.

I completely agree with you. Jadeja is a revelation in this series. I am eagerly waiting for his batting to reveal. I am hoping his bowling success will give Jadeja enough confidence to play his natural game and flourish as a good batsman. He got the ability to do so.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 6:33 GMT)

Jadeja ability to nag and prob????.........since when did india had world class spinners???? answer is never....

Posted by Jayzuz on (March 16, 2013, 10:44 GMT)

Pathetic. Has there ever been a series so massively manipulated by pitch curators. The spirit of cricket is dead dead dead.

Posted by SamRoy on (March 16, 2013, 6:33 GMT)

I agree with many of the readers about Pujara and Kolhi's close fielding abilities. Both are abysmal and should not be fielding close to spinners. Zero technique and zero anticipation.

Posted by SamRoy on (March 16, 2013, 6:29 GMT)

Jadeja might have bowled really well and taken 3 wickets but Ashwin was easily the pick of the bowlers. Anybody who saw yesterday's action will tell you that. Sometimes you bowl really well without taking wickets. When will the Indian media understand this simple truth?

Posted by asimzf on (March 16, 2013, 3:37 GMT)

Sharda.. You are a wonderful writer. You hold the words like a puppet master.


Posted by Simoc on (March 16, 2013, 3:08 GMT)

Great innings for Cowan & Smith: keeps the doubters looking like the fools they are for a longer period. But never the less a losing position for Australia already. The ABC says honours are even, and that is possible but unlikely. A first innings lead to India of over 65 runs will see Oz lose in the four days.

Posted by balajik1968 on (March 16, 2013, 1:17 GMT)

Good day of cricket. The 3 specialist slip fielders India had, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag are gone. Kohli is basically an outfielder. It requires a different kind of preparation to field at slip. Nobody can just walk into the slip cordon and expect to succeed straightaway. I wonder why Tendulkar, who has experience in the slips is being fielded in the deep. The whole thing shows a lack of thought on the part of the Indian think tank. And Duncan Fletcher has got a year's extension. His retirement nest egg just got bigger.

Posted by Freewheeler on (March 16, 2013, 0:42 GMT)

Jadeja has been a pleasant surprise. A closer look at domestic statistics is far more revealing - his bowling average tops that of Ojha and Ashwin. Add to that his ability to play a scrappy and long innings (admittedly has not flowered in that respect), and his fielding, and he becomes a terrific asset to the team. I have always favored MSD at #6, and won't it be terrific to have Jadeja, Ashwin, and Pathan as #s 7,8, and 9 followed by BK and Umesh Yadav? With that team we will have 5 batsmen, a wk-batsman, SLA spinner, LA medium pacer, R arm offspinner, a swing bowler, and a quickie. For spin-friendly pitches Pathan can be switched for PP Ojha.

Posted by Dhanno on (March 15, 2013, 23:41 GMT)

People who have played FC for few years before they make it to international scene, they have chance of being developed into slip fielders. Kohli/ raina came in to cricket as blue-eyed boys of BCCI, some flash and right into ODIs. With indian pitches there is hardly ever any need for slip catching in ODIs and fact that even if needed SRT/ Sehwag were there to stand in slips. Now when it falls on the sholuders of the IPL heros, who tend to be in field for 20 overs max, they cant handle the crouching in slips for whole day for 5 days. So failure from likes kohli/raina/ yuvi is to be expected if they are placed in slips.

Posted by Nampally on (March 15, 2013, 21:29 GMT)

@penagamuri: Those who have played lot of good class of Cricket know the politics behind team selection. There are always Captain's Favourites who get in the XI at the expense of those players who do not have "God Fathers"!. This happens in every Nations but not so blatantly as it happens in India. So if you find me supporting certain players like Pujara & Ojha, it is because 1. They are outstanding World Class cricketers and 2. they have been wronged too many times thru' sheer politicking. If you can justify the reasons for their "benching by Dhoni"- after being the top performers, you may be a Genius. So please do not attack the guys who are fighting for the good of the Indian Cricket.

Posted by satchander on (March 15, 2013, 21:08 GMT)

@Nampally: Agreed with you. Ojha's confidence seemed intially down - he leaked far too many runs and did not have catches taken off his bowling as well. No one to blame except Dhoni and probably selectors who wanted Bhajji to play his 100th test match in this series at the cost of Ojha. Anyway I am glad Bhajji has been dropped and hope he does not selected unless he really sets Ranji trophy on fire again with great performances (highly doubt it though). I think with Jadeja really surpassing expectations of many as a spinner, I feel we now have a good spin combination. Lets stick to this for the next match as well.

Posted by nyc_missile on (March 15, 2013, 20:05 GMT)

For all.. ok,MOST ills of Indian cricket,we can narrow down to just 2 persons- Srinivasan and Dhoni.Catching,fielding,team selection etc are still critical issues but not when compared to systemic problems that plague us.So win at home and get thrashed in SA..also heard that NZ test series will be curtailed for some worthless ODI tournament or something.Where are the priorities? BCCI and their loser appointee Dhoni if given a choice,will cancel all overseas tours and just continue playing at home against mediocre teams.They should be arrested or banned from cricket administration and playing! Only then we will have a competent team capable of winning both home and away like it was under Ganguly and Dravid.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (March 15, 2013, 19:27 GMT)

A draw is the ONLY result possible now. As much as I would love for the Aussies to be smashed 3-0, it won't happen here. The rain on day 1 made sure of that. So expect Australia to be bowled out for a score of about 350 and then Indian batsmen to rack up records. Possibly, the Aussies could bat again but by that time, this game will be over and dusted.

Posted by penagamuri on (March 15, 2013, 18:30 GMT)

Nampally and dravid_gravitas are obsessed with individual players.

Posted by JustIPL on (March 15, 2013, 17:49 GMT)

First the rain and then loss of toss played on the mind of Indian players. After that 139 runs opening stand further demoralized the fielding side which reflected on the fielding. During the aussie opening stand all front line bowlers used whether it be spin or pace, were ineffective and it took the part timer Jadeja to come to rescue at last. Despite this early success Jadeja was not very successful in the remaining bowling task. Also, getting hit by the tail enders and openers alike will play on the mind when India come out to bat. I think rain has saved both teams from defeat in this match. But if aussies quicks and then spinners do it differently this time then anything is possible. One more feather in the hat of Arthur who got the most of Smith this time and if he gets the most of spin attack then he should be proud.

Posted by pr3m on (March 15, 2013, 17:28 GMT)

What's also impressive about Jadeja is his ability to speed through overs. India, and most sub continent teams have a huge problem in this regard, with every captain in recent memory being fined and/or banned. And he was quite economical as well. We hypothise how good he will be in foreign conditions, and I honestly don't know. People say it won't suit his style of bowling, but his skidding ball should be a handful there too, I'd imagine. Regardless, the two things that he brings to the table should be interesting, if used.

Posted by GRVJPR on (March 15, 2013, 17:02 GMT)

Ravindra Jadeja has shut the mouth of too many Indian experts who don't want to see him in the team. But as father of the nation MK Gandhi said " No progress is made without oppossition" so will Jadeja progress with hard work and not by outside cricket columist who try to push certain players along with the support of their blind followers like @Dravid_Gravitas and certain Mr. US

Posted by usernames on (March 15, 2013, 16:49 GMT)

Why are people jumping on to Kohli for dropping a couple of catches? Everyone has a couple of bad days -- he's an excellent fielder; the best, by far.

And, by the way, Dravid_Gravitas, you forgot to mention your favorite Pujara who, for all his batting greatness, is a terrible fielder. Runs poorly, can't catch anything. Your statements might just be taken seriously if they weren't THAT biased. I mean, even jonesy2 and Randy_OZ do better. Come on!

Posted by nyc_missile on (March 15, 2013, 16:39 GMT)

Apropos my last line in my comment-that was for Shikhar Dhawan..

Posted by   on (March 15, 2013, 16:34 GMT)

Yes, I agree with many readers. If all the catches were taken and stumpings effected, India would have been batting at stumps.

Posted by sanjaycrickfan on (March 15, 2013, 16:30 GMT)

Good thing from Australian perspective is they batted out an entire day with the possibility of batting another session tomorrow. Even if India bat well for four sessions, Australia will have a chance for a draw if they can bat out 4 sessions which is not too tough because the pitch is still good for batting. If India collapse in second innings, they will have a crack at winning the game. So situation is not that bad for Australia because you have to see it as a 4 day game.

Posted by nyc_missile on (March 15, 2013, 16:22 GMT)

Kohli is a fancy slip fielder,he is great in the outfield but pathetic in slips.From the young bunch,I think Rahane seems to be the safest pair of hands all around the ground.Kohli has to be groomed as there is no other option available among the youngsters- Ashwin too lazy & heavy to bend,Pujara-bad knees always,Jadeja-takes care of out-field,Vijay-close-in specialist,Woefully short of international class in fielding for a young man.

Posted by VJ_Cricket on (March 15, 2013, 16:20 GMT)

@Nampally, cannot agree with you more. Though i was only following the mtach via cricinfo, it was clear Kohli was napping in the slip, which is a specialist fielding position.

Aussies have blown thr chance all three time after winning the toss. Thou I still an India win is verymuch a possibility. India bats for a day and a half and then an Aussie collaspe :)

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (March 15, 2013, 16:13 GMT)

And yes, what about the missed stumpings and catches by Dhoni and catch dropped by Pujara? Shame! And this GJVPR dude is taking solace in the result that Ojha didn't get wickets rather looking at the facts as to why Ojha didn't get wickets.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2013, 16:12 GMT)

Ugra, you made an error! You said that Clarke lasted just one ball! Wrong! He DID NOT last even a single ball!

Posted by palla.avinash on (March 15, 2013, 16:09 GMT)

Good to see another batting track if kohli would have taken catches india should have in better position.Nothing wrong doctoring pitches.

Posted by Nampally on (March 15, 2013, 15:50 GMT)

A tale of missed catches led to the Aussies compiling a good total. Cowan riding on his luck had catches dropped by Dhoni, Kohli & Pujara to score 86. Warner had his share of luck too leading up to 139 run opening stand. Then irresponsible stroke selection led to clarke's dismissal + a mini collapse, before Smith with his heroics, in company of Starc, brought the Aussies back on track. Jadeja performed very well. When a bowler after being voted amongst the top 10 in the world for 2012 cannot find a place in XI in his home country, his confidence is shattered. Ojha had a tough job getting on track. This was further exascerbated when both Kohli & Dhoni missed catches off Cowan in his bowling. This was early on when Ojha needed the support of his fielding to bring back his confidence. Hopefully this is a lesson for Dhoni - a consequence of dropping Ojha! This match is heading for a draw because in 2 days, 3+ innings have to be completed on a good batting wkt. Any other Result unlikely.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2013, 15:49 GMT)

I think 273 for 7 is a pretty good score. I don't think this match is as on-sided as you describe.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (March 15, 2013, 15:45 GMT)

Kohli has been a liability in the slips, to say the least. India would have been batting had he held on to those simple catches. What was he thinking when he reacted like a tortoise in the slips? Shame!

Posted by VJ_Cricket on (March 15, 2013, 15:40 GMT)

Shame Mohali did not live upto the reputation, but Aussies have themself to blame. 3 Toss's, 3 first inning shambles.

Off all the touring teams, I think India gets the most slack for thier performance abroad. Everyone talks about how our batsmen cannot play pace, bounce & swing. But, if we had our bowling combination correct and took 20 wickets in England & Australia maybe 8-0 would be looking as 3-2!

off topic : What are our options for pace bowling allrounder?

Posted by   on (March 15, 2013, 15:40 GMT)

I used to think, Reality is just Reality, just one reality! Perceptions of the same reality may differ from person o person. Ugra, thanks to you, now I am learning a new concept of 'reality' !

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Tour Results
India v Australia at Delhi - Mar 22-24, 2013
India won by 6 wickets
India v Australia at Mohali - Mar 14-18, 2013
India won by 6 wickets
India v Australia at Hyderabad (Deccan) - Mar 2-5, 2013
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