Day Three of the Duleep Trophy opener belonged to the spinners as pacers found the going tough.
India Green leg spinner Shreyas Gopal took a fifer (5/123) to end India Red’s second innings at 486, setting a target of 496. Robin Uthappa and Jalaj Saxena began India Green’s chase on a positive note but Red’s chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav responded with a five-wicket haul (5/55) to leave the opposition staring at defeat at 217/7.
The BCCI is experimenting with the pink ball, and going by the game, the match has seen performances from the batsmen, seamers and spinners. As the pitch eased up, the spinners came into play and batsmen enjoyed themselves on the placid track. There were no instructions to the pitch committee other than to leave 4mm of grass to preserve the pink ball.
Swing was the most talked-about issue, but as the match reached Day Three, the fast bowlers got swing with the new ball but then struggled as it was hit for runs.
A player said the pink ball was similar to the white Kookaburra ball used in ODIs. “It swings initially but as it gets hit, it is difficult to move it in the air,” he said.
In India, the red ball also helps seamers upfront but as the pitch eases off, the spinners come into play. The pitch at the Greater Noida stadium had started to support turn and Gopal reaped the rewards of a disciplined line and length. While the ball doesn’t lose its shine easily, the spinners relied on mixing up their bowling to extract benefits from the ball and pitch.
When Gopal came on to bowl, it was the second new ball and was hard. He found less turn and the ball skidded and came on nicely to the bat. But he had to change his line to avoid giving room to the batsmen. Once he was accurate, his deliveries turned and dipped as well. KB Arun Karthik was trapped on the back foot and Gurkeerat Mann had problems picking up the variations before being stumped.
The difference could be the absence of rough for spinners as the thick layer of grass doesn’t wear off completely. As a result, Gopal and Pragyan Ojha had to pitch within the stumps and the slight deviation put the batsmen in a fix.
“The pink ball isn’t that helpful for spinners but the mantra to pick wickets is to be accurate and bowl in the right areas. Though I was getting some help from the rough against a left- hander, I had to be accurate to find wickets as the ball did not turn square,” said Gopal.
Uthappa and Saxena put on 72 in 12 overs, but Yadav took two wickets in an over to trigger India Green’s slide.
With dew coming into play, it was tough to grip the ball but Yadav surprised the batsmen with variation. Not only was he spot on, the deliveries turned a lot as well. Sandeep Sharma and Saurabh Tiwary lost their wickets after being beaten in the air.
When winter sets in, the use of the pink ball could lessen as the dew might pose problems.
Brief scores: India Red 161 and 486 (A Mukund 169, S Chatterjee 114, G Singh 82, S Gopal 5/123) vs India Green 151 and 217/7 (R Uthappa 72, S Raina 42*, K Yadav 5/55)