Damning detail emerges as cricket world left divided over India pitch drama
A historically low number of deliveries were faced across the four innings between India and Australia in Indore.
The fallout from Australia's third Test victory over India in Indore has taken another turn after the pitch was given a rating of 'poor' by the ICC following the completion of the match in less than three days. All three Tests in the series thus far have failed to stretch beyond day three, with Indian groundskeepers coming under increased scrutiny.
Pitch preparations have been defended by Indian captain Rohit Sharma and even given benefit of the doubt by the likes of Steve Smith, but several telling stats have emerged revealing the historic brevity of the series thus far.
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A staggeringly low number of balls have been delivered in the series thus far with 3870 overall - the fourth least in any series after three completed Tests ever. Since 1900, on only one occasion have fewer balls been faced, that being England and South Africa's series in 2022.
It was also the fourth-shortest Test match hosted by India, with batsmen facing a combined total of just 1135 deliveries in four innings. Sharma hit back at criticism of the pitches, declaring it was overblown during every series in India.
He said more focus should have been placed on top performances from players on a tricky pitch, highlighting the batting of Usman Khawaja and Cheteshwar Pujara, as well as Nathan Lyon's stunning match figures of 11 for 99.
“We focus too much on the pitch here in India and I don’t feel it’s necessary," he said. “Former cricketers, I don’t think they played on pitches like this. These are the kinds of pitches we want to play on, this is our strength.
“When you’re playing at your home, always play to your strength. Not worry about what people outside are talking about. Our strength is spin bowling and batting depth. Everyone uses that advantage as home side, so what’s wrong with that?"
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Sharma's defence of the conditions came as even the likes of Harbhajan Singh, who suggested even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara would have had their hands full on the dusty and spitting track. Match referee Chris Broad said in handing down the pitch rating that it 'did not provide a balance between bat and ball'.
“The fifth ball of the match broke through the pitch surface and continued to occasionally break the surface providing little or no seam movement and there was excessive and uneven bounce throughout the match," he summarised.
Despite the pitch being a significant talking point Smith, who filled in as captain for the absent Pat Cummins, preferred to embrace the challenge the pitch presented.
“I prefer this more than just a genuine flat wicket that goes five days and can be boring in stages,” he said. “There’s always something happening on these wickets — you’ve got to really work hard for your runs.”
Australia remain bullish about their hopes of drawing the four-Test series at two apiece. Wicketkeepr Alex Carey said Australia had played good cricket at stages in the first two Tests, but had let themselves down badly by not maintaining their focus throughout the two devastating losses to begin the series.
"I think the resilience after the first two games where it didn't go to plan, but we played good periods of cricket, we had opportunities to win so we never lost confidence in that," Carey said. "It is one game over here and we want to back that up and finish this series off in a really positive way.
"If we can win two Tests over here, we know how special that will be. So we're excited, we were happy with the result but we're still focused that there's another game to go."
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