England all-rounder Ben Stokes expressed his surprise at the condition of the pitch for the fourth Test against India at the JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi. Stokes, who is leading the team in the absence of injured Joe Root, said he had never seen something like that before and wondered how it would play out in the match.
England trail 1-2 in the series
England are in a must-win situation in the fourth Test, as they trail 1-2 in the five-match series. They lost the first Test in Chennai by 227 runs, bounced back to win the second Test in Ahmedabad by 317 runs, but suffered a humiliating 10-wicket defeat in the third Test in Motera, which lasted only two days. England have faced criticism for their poor batting and selection choices in the series, as they have struggled to cope with the spin-friendly conditions in India.
Stokes inspects the pitch
Stokes, who has been one of the few bright spots for England with both bat and ball, went to check the pitch on the eve of the match and was shocked by what he saw. He posted a picture of the pitch on his Instagram story, with the caption: “I have not seen something like this before”. The picture showed a dry and cracked surface, with patches of grass and loose soil. Stokes also added a confused emoji to express his feelings.
How will the pitch behave?
The Ranchi pitch has been a topic of debate and speculation ever since the venue was announced for the fourth Test. The stadium has hosted only one Test match before, in 2017, when India and Australia played out a draw on a slow and low track. The curator, SB Singh, had said that he was preparing a sporting wicket that would offer bounce and carry for the fast bowlers, and turn and bounce for the spinners. However, the recent picture shared by Stokes has raised doubts about the nature and quality of the pitch, and how it will affect the outcome of the match.
What are the teams’ strategies?
Both teams will have to adapt to the pitch and devise their strategies accordingly. India, who have a formidable spin attack led by Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, will be confident of exploiting the conditions and sealing the series. England, on the other hand, will have to find a way to counter the spin threat and score enough runs to put pressure on the hosts. They might also consider playing an extra spinner, such as Dom Bess or Jack Leach, to bolster their bowling options. The toss will also be crucial, as both teams will prefer to bat first and avoid batting last on a deteriorating pitch.