By Jake Beleski
The second cricket test between India and Australia was one of the most riveting matches in recent memory.
Not because of blazing boundaries or ferocious bowling, but because of a terrible pitch that had batsmen from both sides bemused by the variety of bounce and turn.
The aim of most test cricket wickets is to offer a fair balance between bat and ball, with the idea of stretching the match deep into the fifth day with both teams still thinking they are a chance of winning.
The first test of this series in Pune lasted three days, and the second in Bengaluru faired only marginally better, reaching the final session of day four.
But it was more exciting, for longer periods, than any five-day test I can recall in recent seasons.
The twists and turns of a test that goes down to the wire on day five can make for exhilarating viewing, but the problem is you usually have to wait so long to get to the point where the excitement starts to build.
The first two test matches of this India-Australia series have been captivating from ball one to the final delivery, simply because nobody seems to know what will happen next, least of all the players.
India clearly back their twin-spin attack of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to do the job on these wickets, and good on them.
It backfired spectacularly in the first test as Australia romped to a 333-run victory, but in the second test Jadeja’s six wickets in the first innings and Ashwin’s six in the second proved they were right to stick to their guns.
There were plenty of calls for India to produce a wicket that favoured the batsmen in the second test, but why would they?
Australia have a superior pace attack, and the gamble India have chosen to take is that they will have to counter the variable bounce produced by Australian spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, while relying on their spinners to bundle Australia out.
Australia’s batsmen are used to playing on quality wickets with even pace and bounce, and these first two tests have dragged them well outside their comfort zone, while providing thrilling entertainment from the first ball to the last.
On a side note, Indian captain Virat Kohli was rightfully fuming after his Australian counterpart, Steve Smith, sought advice from the team dressing room as to whether he should review after being given out lbw.
The Indian cricket board has only recently agreed to the use of DRS (Decision Review System), and the last thing cricket needs is for them to backtrack on using it because of the Australian team’s questionable actions.