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Dry crust points towards spin punch

cricket Updated: Nov 18, 2010 00:12 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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Everyone seeking a result in the third and final Test between India and New Zealand, starting here on Saturday, can take heart from the brief history of Test cricket at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Jamtha, in the city's eastern fringe.

Both Tests played at the swanky venue, which hosted its first five-day match just over two years ago have produced results, one going in favour of India.

The distribution of wickets among pacers and spinners is unusually even with bowlers of both varieties having an exactly equal share in the 62 wickets taken by them.

Bowlers of visiting teams have returned remarkable figures here, with Australia off-spinner Jason Krejza taking 12 wickets in 2008. In February this year, South Africa's Dale Steyn inflicted an innings defeat on India by claiming a total of 10 wickets in an extraordinary display of reverse swing.

If there is bad news for India in Zaheer Khan, their best bet in reverse swing, being ruled out with a groin problem, there is a hint of good news too. Pitch curator Praveen Hinganikar said on Wednesday that the strip chosen for the Test is dry and has not been watered for the last three days.

There is no point in reading too much into it because predicting pitch behaviour is risky business, but the crust of a dry surface usually becomes loose as the match progresses thereby assisting spinners. In Zaheer's absence, Indian hopes rest on Harbhajan Singh & Co, who should enjoy the prospect of bowling on a dry strip.

Hinganikar didn't commit whether the pitch would be watered at all before the Test, saying that a decision would be taken on Thursday. Apart from that, Hinganikar, in charge of the pitch for all international matches played at this stadium, promised a hard surface, which will stay firm fromthe base for five days.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni defended his bowlers after the two drawn Tests in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, saying that the pitches were loaded in favour of batsmen, even on the last two days. In Hyderabad, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori supported his Indian counterpart. Neither went to the ground after arriving here on Wednesday.

Teams batting first have emerged winners in both Tests here after putting up big totals. Although Steyn stole the spotlight, South Africa's left-arm spinner Paul Harris took three wickets in the second innings in the win against India. In 2008, Harbhajan and Amit Mishra shared seven second-innings wickets.

Even though all that is history, the people concerned in both teams will still have an eye on what happened in the past before starting to plan how they want things to unfold this time.