Will slowandlow be the way to go in Ranchi?

Will Ranchi be a friend or a foe to India's aspirations? PTI

Turn and bounce. The two words are used so often in tandem that they coalesce into one predatory creature baring its fangs at batsmen - turnandbounce - rather than quantities that occupy two distinct axes on a graph. There are times, though, when a spinner lands a hard-spun delivery on just the right length and gets the pitch to respond to all the revolutions he has put on the ball and actually achieves turnandbounce.

Nathan Lyon kept doing this, again and again, on the first day of the Bengaluru Test match. Cheteshwar Pujara turnandbounced, popping a bat-pad catch to short leg. R Ashwin turnandbounced, gloving one to leg gully. Virat Kohli undone by an unexpected lack of turnandbounce, lbw without offering a shot.

Before the tour had begun, Lyon had watched hours of footage of Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, studying the way the ball came out of their hands, the seam positions they employed to derive natural variation from Indian pitches. He had practised bowling with these releases - more sidespin, less topspin, occasional undercut - and prepared himself for the slow, low turners he was likely to find upon arrival.

On day one in Bengaluru, he simply went back to being Nathan Lyon and bowling like an old-fashioned Australian fingerspinner, with loop and overspin, and got the ball to jump at batsmen. Turnandbounce. A bit of first-day dampness on the topsoil of an otherwise dry pitch had created the perfect conditions for Mitchell Starc to create a premature rough outside the right-handers' off stump. Into this rough Lyon bowled, getting the ball to grip and spit at India's almost exclusively right-handed batting line-up.

As the Test match wore on, as the moisture evaporated and the cracks widened, low bounce became a greater threat to batsmen than high bounce. Lyon, though unlucky to have a couple of chances put down off his bowling, was less of a force in India's second innings. Their batsmen were able to go on the back foot and work him between short leg and leg gully without worrying too much about gloving the ball to either of them. Ajinkya Rahane was able to sweep him out of the rough without worrying too much about top-edging.

As the match progressed, lbw and bowled became far more likely means of dismissing batsmen. India's spinners prospered. Six of the 15 wickets Ashwin and Jadeja took in the match were either bowled or lbw. Lyon and Steve O'Keefe took 11 wickets in the match, there were no bowled dismissals by them and only one - Kohli in the first innings - was lbw.

In the process, India may well have stumbled upon the perfect formula for empowering their spinners while simultaneously nullifying their Australian counterparts. Slowandlow rather than turnandbounce. Too much turn, O'Keefe's straight ball - a delivery even Jadeja was unable to replicate with comparable frequency in Pune - becomes deadly. Too much bounce, Lyon roars. Slowandlow, perhaps, was the way to go.

Will Ranchi be a friend or a foe to India's aspirations? Will it be like Pune, turning so square the match referee rated it "poor"? Will it be like Bengaluru, its bounce so inconsistent the match referee rated it "below average"? Will it be something else entirely? Will it be, could it be, slowandlow?

Indian pitches, depending on their soil composition, are usually either red-orange and dry or pale brown and dry. On Tuesday afternoon, pitch No. 5 at the JSCA International Stadium in Ranchi was soaking wet and nearly black in patches.

There was barely any grass on it, and by the time Thursday dawns most of the dampness should have disappeared, but the surface probably will not begin as dry as Pune's did. Still, the absence of grass and the general look of the pitch have already led the media - particularly the Australian contingent - to whisper about conspiracies.

Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald said Australia had "walked into an India-endorsed stitch up as suspicion grows the hosts have been delivered a tailor-made wicket designed to blunt Australia's pace weapons and dull the effect of Nathan Lyon."

AAP called it a "patchwork-quilt pitch" that "attempted to blunt the bounce of Australia's pacemen". Both reports used the words slow and low, though neither went as far as saying slowandlow.

SB Singh, the curator, had read these reports, and refused to talk about the specific nature of the pitch he was preparing for Ranchi's Test debut. He was, however, happy to chat about the art and science of pitch preparation, about percentages of clay and silt and specific minerals and their respective effects on pitch behaviour.

With a 60% clay content - responsible for the exaggerated darkening upon watering - Singh said the Ranchi pitch tended to crack rather than crumble under the sun, crumbling being a characteristic of red-soil pitches like those at the Wankhede Stadium. Like most other subcontinental pitches, he added, Ranchi's soil was high in silt - giving it a consequent tendency for slowness.

This was as far as Singh went; he would not say how this clayey, silty strip would behave on Thursday and thereafter. Turnandbounce, slowandlow, or something else altogether? We will have to wait and watch.