No flat track at the Kotla

MS Dhoni has a chat with the groundsmen while Harbhajan Singh inspects the pitch Associated Press

The Feroz Shah Kotla is almost certain to halt the runathon that this series has been so far though the curator believes the pitch should behave better than it did during the Champions League Twenty20 earlier this month. Both the captains expect a low and slow pitch and hope it doesn't break too much during the match.

Vijay Bahadur Mishra, the Kotla curator, says he has done all he can to ensure neither side gets an unfair advantage and that the ball bounces more than it did in the Champions League. "We have been watering it and rolling it repeatedly to make the top layer firm," he said. "We left it uncovered last night too. The idea was to let it absorb as much dew as possible.

"What we have got here is a wicket somewhat like the ones at Sharjah, not fast and bouncy but firm."

Mishra says horizontal-bat shots will still be difficult to play, but expects around 240 to be a par score. If that happens, it will be a huge improvement over the Champions League: four scores below 100, one of which was the tournament's lowest total, two-fifths of dismissals clean bowled.

Ricky Ponting doesn't expect drastic changes, though. "I think it will be low and slow as we saw through the Champions League. Pretty hard for the batsmen to score," he said. Ponting also made an interesting observation: "Spinners will play a big role no doubt, but if the fast bowlers bowl well, they are going to be the hardest ones to score off," he said. "For spinners - because it's spinning so much - the margin of error becomes small. Rotating the strike against spinners might be a bit easier than against the faster bowlers."

Dhoni said it was important to not go out to bat with preset notions. "It is very difficult to set a target," he said. "As a team your first priority should be to get off to a good start. If you get off to a good start in the first few overs, then you can set targets like 10-over target. So if the character of the wicket changes you can accordingly shuffle (the batting order) and see what a good score is. It is the type of wicket where 220 or 200-odd can be a good score if it behaves in the same way [as in the Champions League]."