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England set to face another used pitch in third Test

George Dobell
December 2, 2012 « Sunderland sweat on Fletcher injury | Chartbeat test »
The Eden Gardens' groundsman insists cricket should be played on pitches with true pace and bounce
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England will be confronted by another used wicket when the third Test against India starts on Wednesday, according to the Eden Gardens curator, Prabir Mukherjee.

India's tactic of utilising a worn track backfired in the second Test in Mumbai. Despite winning the toss, India lost by 10 wickets with the England spin-bowling duo of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann sharing 19 wickets and out-performing the three-pronged Indian spin attack.

While three surfaces have been prepared on the Eden Gardens square, Mukherjee stated that the Test pitch would be the same as that used for the match between Bengal and Gujarat. That match ended on November 20 - barely two weeks before the start of the Test - and foot marks from the bowlers' run-ups are clearly visible. But only 25 wickets fell over the course of the four-day game as the match ended in a draw and Mukherjee insisted the pitch would reward good cricket rather than providing too much assistance to bowlers of a certain type.

"Cricket should be played on pitches of true pace and true bounce," Mukherjee said. "Games should be decided by the quality of the player, not the pitch. It should be the way they bowl that matters. It is not about the pitch.

"This pitch was used for the Ranji Trophy game against Gujarat. They were 18 for 5 in their second innings but they fought back and the match was drawn. Swann and Panesar will enjoy this pitch. They bowl line and length. The pitch will have good pace and bounce."

Reports had suggested that Mukherjee was in dispute with India captain, MS Dhoni over the latter's demand for "a square turner" in Mukherjee's words. But Dhoni will be encouraged by news that a worn pitch will be used as it should assist his spinners and exploit what India believe is England's weakness against high-quality spin bowling. It also suggests that winning the toss will, once again, offer a substantial advantage.

Mukherjee laughed off the suggestion that he was unwell as reported by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) - indeed, he looked in remarkably good health for a man reported to be 83 - and reacted with an ambivalent shrug to the suggestion that the BCCI or CAB were attempting to gag him. "I am at the fag end of my life," he said. "They are threatening to suspend me if I talk about the pitch. That is the treatment I get after more than two decades of service at CAB."

England have a modest record at Eden Gardens, where they have not played a Test since 1993. They have only won one Test there - in 1977 - and, of the other eight they have contested at the ground, have lost three of them. Only two England batsmen, Colin Cowdrey in 1964 and Tony Grieg in 1977, have scored Test centuries on the ground and no England fast bowler has taken a five-wicket haul on the ground in a Test since Bob Willis in 1977. No seamer has taken a five-wicket haul in a Test on the ground since Javagal Srinath in 1999.

Steven Finn did not bowl in training on Sunday. The England management insisted Finn, who was in action more recently than his seam bowling colleagues in the Test squad due to his participation in the England Performance Programme match, was being rested in line with his workloads plans and was not suffering from an injury. He will bowl in training on Monday before a decision is taken over his involvement in the third Test.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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