Raging turner not 'dangerous' - Parthiv
Twenty-six wickets fell on the opening day of the crucial Group B tie between Gujarat and Haryana but Parthiv Patel, the Gujarat captain, maintained the pitch at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad was not "dangerous". Despite conceding a slender four-run lead, Parthiv said the pitch was the one Gujarat needed.
Placed joint fifth in Group B, Gujarat require an outright win to have any chances of qualification to the knockouts. The last league match was thus scheduled on a result-oriented pitch, instead of Motera. Haryana batted first, were bowled out for 129, but came back strongly to skittle the home side for 125. The visitors lost six more wickets before the close of play.
"Usually this ground provides a result and we are in the position where we need an outright win so we didn't want to take any chance by playing at Motera," Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel told ESPNcricinfo. "Ya, obviously [we had asked to play the match here]."
"It's not a dangerous pitch, it was a turning wicket and obviously when it's a turner on red soil it gets tough to bat if you don't get used to the bounce," Parthiv said. "The wicket was almost the same later in the day when I batted. There wasn't a lot of change in the wicket."
These were familiar circumstances for Gujarat. Last season, in need of a win, they had hosted Odisha at the same ground towards the later stages of the tournament and routed them for 83 in the second innings to win by 166 runs.
While it was left-arm spinner Axar Patel last year who took five wickets on the fourth day, this time it was offspinner Ramesh Powar who did the damage. Parthiv responded with a quick 43 off 44, but it wasn't enough as then Haryana spinners Jayant Yadav (4 for 45) and Amit Mishra (5 for 37) ran through the hosts' line-up.
"It's a dry pitch, not an uneven pitch. Bowlers from both teams bowled well," Powar said. "I think some of the batsmen threw their wickets away and some bowlers bowled well too. Amit Mishra bowled well, Rush Kalaria bowled well, I bowled well. If you apply yourself then you'll get some runs. It's a dry wicket and is spinning, but it's not going haywire. It's just a normal turning track. Kalaria, the medium-pacer, bowled cutters and he got batsmen caught behind.
"It was spinning, but it was slow turn, it was not sharp turn but bounce is there because it's a red-soil wicket. A lot of batsmen are not used to turn and bounce. A lot of [usual] tracks are batting tracks so this is a surprise wicket. If you see the pitch, there's nothing on the pitch, there are no spots, no footmarks, it's not crumbling."
Teams often resort to tactics of playing in favourable conditions towards the end of the league stage as they seek outright wins. Gujarat tried the same but could not hold on to the early advantage. The toss, however, did not play a big role, according to both Parthiv and Powar.
"Toss was not crucial on this pitch, the wicket is dry," Powar said. "Whoever bats well will win the game because the five wickets I got - one at long-on, one at deep midwicket, one was stumped, and one was bowled, so everyone was trying to play shots. Some of the shots were not suitable for this wicket because it's slow and was helping spinners.
"It is a patience wicket. If you apply yourself you'll get runs. Some of the batsmen got runs, some got starts, and some threw their wickets away. "
With Haryana's top order dismissed and not many runs on the board, the match was headed for an early finish. "The way the batsmen are not applying it should get over before tea time," Powar said.
"If we can contain them under 120 or something I'm sure we can win," Parthiv reckoned.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo