Chopra: Wankhede pitch moves the game really fast

After a nervy start, Keaton Jennings settled into his first Test innings AFP

The late-ish debut

Every time a new player makes an appearance in Test cricket, there is scrutiny of his method and technique. The first few overs against pace saw Keaton Jennings getting a little late on the ball. Whenever we saw the footage from the square angle for the balls that pitched fuller, we found his front toe in the air and also, the contact was within his body as opposed to meeting the ball either around or ahead of the front pad.

Rolling in the deep

The Indian seamers deployed a fielder to man the fence on either side of the pitch. While having a fielder at deep square leg could be to set the bouncer trap, the one at deep point was stationed for the bad ball. The reasons for such a ploy could be an acceptance of the possibility of the pitch cracking too soon or to account for the extra bounce at Wankhede, for that allows the horizontal bat shots to be played more often.

The well-behaved Wankhede pitch

The pitch at Wankhede is one of its kind in India, for the soil used to prepare it is red in colour and that offers more bounce. In addition to that, the red soil tends to break quicker than the black soil. The first signs of what to expect from this pitch surfaced on the fourth ball of the eighth over, for there was a puff of dust where the ball landed. It is worth mentioning here that there is an even covering of grass on the 22 yards and therefore it will not start misbehaving too soon.

England's clear intent

England have come out with a clear intent to be a little more aggressive in this Test. There has been a clear intent to keep the score board ticking, even if it meant playing slightly out of character. Alastair Cook is not known to go down the track and attempt aerial shots early in the innings but he did that here. Jennings also used the sweep shot effectively to rotate strike.

Limited margin of error

The best part about the red-soil pitch at Wankhede is that the game moves really fast. The extra bounce off the pitch allows the batsman to put the ball in gaps easily and the same bounce ensures that edges (outside and inside) carry to the fielders. As a bowler you cannot err in length, for unlike other Indian pitches, here runs are easily available off the back foot. Batsmen must also be decisive in judging the length correctly, for they cannot just plant their foot and adjust afterwards.

The familiar trap against Moeen

Following Moeen Ali's dismissal in the first innings of the Test in Mohali, Indian seamers tried the bouncer trap against him at Wankhede too. While he has had a fair share of issues against the short-pitched deliveries in the past, he has managed it well on the first day here. If there is a pitch in India that encourages fast bowlers to dig it in, it has to be at the Wankhede. But if there is a pitch in India where batsmen also feel comfortable against bouncers, it has to be the Wankhede again, for here you can always trust the bounce. If you have a defensive game plan against bouncers, you can stick to it without worrying about some balls not bouncing enough.

The ball of the series

If you are an aspiring spinner, please watch this ball time and again. R Ashwin bowled from around the wicket, used the angle to bring the ball back into Ben Stokes, the angle got further accentuated because of the drift and then the ball turned at a right-angle after pitching to beat Stokes' outside edge. It is a pity that Ashwin did not get a wicket on that ball and therefore it will not go down as one of the best balls in recent times.