Focus on pitch as India look to bag series against Australia

Ranchi: The spotlight is firmly trained on the pitch as an ambitious India brace up for what is expected to be a high-voltage battle of attrition against Australia in the third cricket Test starting here tomorrow.

Since the amicable end to the acrimonious DRS saga, the focus has shifted to the pitch at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA), which is organising it’s first-ever Test match.

The four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy is locked at 1-1 and the game at former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s home town would be crucial to the outcome of the series.

The wicket for the first Test was rated poor while the Bengaluru surface, where the second match was played, has been deemed “below average” by match referee Chris Broad.

Trailing 0-1 following a shocking 331-run defeat in the opener, India will enter the match with new-found confidence having scripted a brilliant fightback in Bengaluru.

Australian captain Steve Smith had stirred up a controversy in Bengaluru by seeking advice from the dressing room on using the contentious DRS technology for an lbw dismissal at a crucial juncture.

Heading into the match, both teams are wary of the pitch.

A few days ago, Dhoni, who is currently in Delhi leading Jharkhand in the domestic one-dayers, was seen with the curator during the pitch preparations.

On the surface, the 22-yard strip looks tailor-made for spinners, even as the local officials maintain it will last the distance.

Head coach Anil Kumble took a long look at the pitch in consultation with East Zone curator Ashish Bhowmick, assessing its firmness.

It was watered in the morning and there were a few spells of rain about a week back, explaining its moisture-laden appearance.

Having posted 600-plus totals in their previous three innings before this series, the home team’s batting is yet to live upto expectations. None of India’s big guns have yet posted a century.

With three half centuries, KL Rahul has been the leading run-getter in the series, while Kohli, who is having a rare lean patch against the Aussies, will look to break the drought.

Kohli has just 40 runs from four innings, a dry spell coming after a year full of runs, in which the Indian captain slammed 1457 runs from nine Tests and led the side to a 19-match unbeaten run before the Pune debacle.