It is rare that India roll out a Test pitch that does not give the appearance of a wizened face, cracks and all. That brings spinners to the centrestage, leaving pace bowlers as bit-part players.
The track for the first Test between India and England in Rajkot is an exception with a good sprinkling of grass, but India pace spearhead Umesh Yadav will feel frustrated and let down by his team-mates.
As many as five catches were dropped, four of them off the bowling of Umesh Yadav. The other was off Mohammed Shami’s bowling. Three of those let-offs came in the first six overs of the England innings, with skipper Alastair Cook the beneficiary twice.
A dry pitch, uneven bounce and cracks widening rapidly all can also aid a speedster, but spinners cash in faster and the new ball bowlers essentially creating a rough off their follow through for slow bowlers to exploit.
England piled up 537 -- India were 63/0 at stumps on Day 2 -- but it could have been so different. Umesh Yadav, who finished with 2/112, almost threw away one of his two wickets by prematurely celebrating the return catch of centurion Joe Root.
Spinners under scanner
After having a clear advantage over South Africa and New Zealand in the last two home Test series on turning tracks, India’s three spinners toiled on the first two days.
The Rajkot pitch, once a batsman’s paradise and then a rank turner, has grass to bind the surface, which hasn’t let the ball grip the surface and turn so far.
It will only reinforce criticism that Indian spinners, led by Ravichandran Ashwin, are effective only on turning tracks.
The catching was appalling from the start of the England innings.
Virat Kohli should have caught skipper Alastair Cook at slips in the second over on Wednesday and Murali Vijay then dropped a regulation catch offered by debutant opener Haseeb Hameed, both off Yadav.
With Ajinkya Rahane having dropped Cook off Mohammed Shami off the third delivery of the Test, it made three misses in the first six overs.
On Thursday, as England piled on the runs, Yadav saw keeper Wriddhiman Saha, his footwork slowed by tiredness, drop Ben Stokes --- the third centurion of the innings --- twice in his successive overs.
A pacer taking five-for at home is rare. Bhuvneshwar Kumar did, in the second Test against New Zealand in Kolkata, sharing 12 scalps with Mohammed Shami. The previous five-for by a pacer at home was by Shami at Eden Gardens against West Indies in 2013.
On a good pitch, India’s pacers would have made their presence felt, but for the sloppy catching.