Mamma mia, here we go again …

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Nagpur

“WATERLOO!” Yes, we’re in Nagpur. Yes, they played Abba at full volume to test the stadium sound system at the Jamtha stadium on Monday. Was that weird? Hell, yes.

But which team’s Waterloo? SA must win the third test starting here on Wednesday to retain a chance of claiming the series, and they will have to do so on a pitch that will put India under pressure to clinch the rubber.

In Mohali, the groundsman, one Daljit Singh, was quoted almost as often as those who played in the first test – which India won by 108 runs inside three days on a surface that looked like it had spent a month in a tandoor oven and duly turned from the first session.

The jury will always be out on the pitch for the second test in Bangalore, what with rain bedeviling preparation and the weather limiting play to just one day.

And so to Nagpur, which looks dry enough to wonder whether a shower might last have fallen when Abba were big. In Japan.

On Monday, the pitch being prepared for Wednesday’s game looked like a slab of irregularly shaped terracotta tiles. Grass? Knowing me, knowing you, hardly a blade.

“It will turn, surely,” Jamtha groundsman Amar Karlekar said. “It will not be too different from the pitches we have seen so far in the series – India will have the home advantage.”

The same strip was used in a Ranji Trophy match between Vidarbha and Assam last month. The spinners were into the action as early as the sixth over on the first day, and they claimed 31 of the 37 wickets that fell in the game. Gimme, gimme, gimme, or what.

But the match did go into a fourth day and the team batting last, Vidarbha, won by three wickets.

So, that’s the name of the game. SA will have to bat like super troupers to level the series heading into the last test in Delhi.

That was old news to Morne Morkel: “Coming here as a fast bowler, we expected no favours – we knew the wickets were going to turn.

“Mental preparation is going to be key if we are going to bowl well. If I can keep the pressure on the batsmen while the spinners are toiling away, that’s what I’m aiming to do. And also get one or two myself.”

What did Murali Vijay think of the pitch?

“I’ve come straight to the press conference, so I haven’t seen it,” he said with a smirk. “Hopefully, it should be a good, sporting wicket.”

Yeah, right.

Mamma mia, here we go again. It will be a case of the winner takes it all, and with it the money, money, money. And, to the stadium staff, thank you for the music.

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