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October 8, 2008
How will the pitch behave? It's the question everyone, and not just the punters, wants answered on the eve of a Test. You can go to some venues and know what to expect: the ball will bounce in Durban, swing at Headingley when Leeds is cloudy, and turn in Kandy. The Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, however, isn't easy to characterise unless you want to paste an 'India struggle to win here' label on it.
India's last victory in Bangalore was the match against New Zealand in 1995 and, since then, they've lost four - two against Australia - and drawn a couple. The last Test here, against Pakistan in 2007, was played on a brand new surface. That match was destined to be drawn after both teams posted massive first-innings totals on a flat track. However it came apart in the final session of the fifth day and offered variable bounce to Anil Kumble who bowled seam up and took 5 for 60. Pakistan lost four wickets for ten runs but were saved by the fading light.
Australia will begin their tour of India on the same pitch but the curator said it was unlikely to offer the same variable bounce. The trouble that Pakistan's batsmen faced was because of the new pitch, made with Mandya clay, but it had settled during the past year. The surface was hard but mostly dry. The daily showers leading up to Thursday hadn't affected the preparation of the surface.
Bangalore was also one of the more bowlers-friendly venues during the IPL when bowlers were being destroyed in other parts of the country. The pitch was one of the fastest on the circuit and the bounce and seam movement it offered kept free-swinging batsmen in check. The hardness of the surface combined with the possibility of cloudy skies could give the fast bowlers some mileage while the ball is new.
"It's [the pitch] obviously been watered yesterday afternoon, you can see that the pitch has changed a bit," Ponting said on the eve of the match. "I was speaking to Greg Chappell and he thinks it's the best one he's seen here in Bangalore.
"It's nice and hard so I'd imagine it would be a very good batting surface for the first couple of days. With the weather being as it is [overcast and humid] it might swing a bit more than usual. It will probably take until very late in the game before it starts to spin too much or have variable bounce."
Ganguly, however, had put forth a different view a day earlier. "This will turn obviously as the Test match goes on," he said. "But the Bangalore wicket has been a bit different over the years. It might get a bit up and down on the last two days. That's what happened against Pakistan last year. It must have settled down but I'm sure there's going to be spin for the bowlers."
Kumble didn't offer his opinion on the pitch but he did say that he would "bowl accordingly" if last year's seam-up strategy was required.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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