England played a straight bat after play on the second day at Chennai, as accusations of an unfit pitch swirled around the social media bear pit.
The tourists were bowled out for 134 in only 59.5 overs in reply to India’s 329 and, at stumps, the hosts were 249 runs head with nine wickets remaining. But the talking point was the surface, with the match extremely unlikely to go the distance.
With Michael Vaughan and Shane Warne among those criticising the Chennai crumble via social media, the former Australia batsman Mark Waugh weighed in by tweeting: “I’m all for a good contest between bat and ball in Test match cricket but this pitch in Chennai is unacceptable at Test match level. You can’t have the ball going through the top of the surface on day 1 from the main part of the pitch. Ie not from the footmarks.”
England, however, refused to be drawn. The assistant coach Graham Thorpe, sitting poker-faced next to Chris Silverwood on the balcony for most of the day, was asked for his opinion. He replied: “It’s a very challenging surface, that’s what I’m going to say. In terms of me commenting on the pitch, I think that’s for someone above me to look at. It’s obviously taken turn early in the game and it was a very good toss to win.”
With England’s best hope of escape on a wing and a prayer, he was reflective on the challenge of batting well on a pitch so conducive to spin. “There are some balls in the pitch which you might not be able to do too much about. We talked about having a plan. How to attack, defend and rotate. It didn’t happen for us today, we didn’t get the partnerships going.
“We need something very, very special to happen tomorrow and somebody do something amazing with the bat. We knew we were going to have some tough times and the important thing is the dressing room doesn’t get too affected by today.”
The top-scoring Englishman, Ben Foakes, said after his unbeaten 42: “It was an incredibly tough day. The pitch was playing a few tricks. I just tried to stick to my gameplan.”
Ravichandran Ashwin, with five wickets under his belt, seemed surprised to be asked about the pitch: “I do not know if they [England] have complaints but if they have then it is completely natural to come up against adverse conditions.
“The seven days of cricket that we have played so far, England have played really well, competed really well. Time and again there are conditions which will challenge you be it spin or seam. Clearly the challenges are way greater when you come up against seam. It’s just the way you play spin, you have to give time and then cash in, it is another form of art.”