A Test match played at the Ferozeshah Kotla could well get boring if the pitch is not under the scanner. On December 27, 2009, a one-day tie against Sri Lanka had to be abandoned after a dubious pitch of uneven bounce was deemed to be dangerous to bat on.
Although Australia subsided in roughly four days in each of the first three Tests on spin-friendly pitches in Chennai, Hyderabad and Mohali, the Delhi pitch has come in for early criticism. Some officials had told HT in the week leading to the Test that a rank dry surface was being prepared on instructions and that the match may not last beyond the third day.
Australia's top-order batsmen were guilty of throwing their wickets away on Friday playing loose shots. But there was uneven bounce from the first session, the ball either keeping low or the odd one rising sharply. An Ishant Sharma delivery rose from good length and struck Phillip Hughes on his helmet, while a Ravichandran Ashwin delivery shot through. The umpires on a couple of occasions were seen taking a close look whether the bowlers' follow-through was damaging the pitch.
With puffs of dust coming off the surface, some experts dubed it a "third day" pitch. There is concern it could deteriorate fast and make batting tougher.
It is no secret that skipper MS Dhoni wants rank turners for home Tests. While curators at the other three venues prepared pitches that helped home spinners, the India batsmen also scored heavily. The Aussie lower-order resistance in the final session pushed pitch talk aside a bit and one will have to wait till India bat, most likely early on Saturday.
However, it is clear the Delhi curators often struggle to get the balance right. Apart from the 2009 fiasco, late in 2011, the West Indies Test was played on a sluggish surface.
Australia batsman Steve Smith, who batted for around two-and-a-half hours to score 46, gave his verdict. "That's probably not the day one wicket that I'm used to playing on. It's broken up a fair bit. It's going to get tougher and tougher to bat throughout this match. To be 231 at the end of the day is not a bad day. Hopefully, we can grind out another 50 or so tomorrow and I think that will be quite competitive as a first-innings score on that wicket."
Dhoni, on his part, kept switching Ashwin and Jadeja constantly from the pavilion end to create rough on both sides of the pitch, which the bowlers sought to exploit.