Dharamsala Test pitch preview with Fiona Bruce

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Another Test series, another touring team dashed on the Indian rocks. Even a lighthouse won’t save you, because merely seeing the danger is not enough. The currents in this part of the world are simply too strong.

Have you seen The Lighthouse, by the way? We recommend it if you’re a fan of hearing Willem Dafoe say “ye” – which of course you are.

“You’re fond of me lobster, ain’t yer? I seen it! You’re fond of me lobster! Say it… Say it… Say it!”

“DAMN YE! Let Neptune strike ye dead, Winslow!”

Anyway, while the waves teeming with salt foam have already smothered England’s young mouths with pungent slime, choking them, engorging their organs ’til they turned blue and bloated with bilge and brine and can scream no more, there’s still one Test left to play.

Looking back, England’s planning for this series wasn’t too shabby really. They spurned match practice and picked unknown spinners and one of them delivered victory in the first Test. The other one’s bowled soundly too.

So while acclimatisation and spin bowling threatened to be their most significant (and self-inflicted) failings, it’s hard to take issue with performance in either area. Their weaknesses have in fact been far more mundane. They haven’t hit many fifties, for example.

Ollie Pope, Ben Duckett and Joe Root have all combined a wonderful hundred with precisely zero fifties. Zak Crawley has three half-centuries, Ben Stokes one, and the only other person to wave their bat in semi-celebration has been the much-maligned Ollie Robinson.

India, in contrast, have mustered twice as many fifties, while two of their five hundreds became doubles. This is how you win a series. They’ve just been all-round a better team.

India’s youngsters have performed better than England’s – both those doubles were from Yashasvi Jaiswal – but their oldsters have been better too. Ravindra Jadeja is averaging 43 with the bat and 25 with the ball. Jasprit Bumrah has been the finest bowler on either side by a wide margin. England’s spinners have been pretty good, but other than Axar Patel, India’s have all been better.

As we said though, there’s still one match to go and a Test match between India and England is never not a big deal, if we can go heavy on the negatives.

So how will it go? We took the obvious course of action and asked Fiona Bruce.

What say ye, Fiona?

Fiona Bruce says…

There’s only been one Test match at Dharamsala, against Australia in 2017.

A Steve Smith hundred got them to 300 in the first innings. India responded with 332, but that narrow gap was reclassified as a chasm when the Aussies folded to 137 in the second innings.

With no big individual score, it was the middling innings that won it for India: the 30s and 40s and Ravindra Jadeja’s 63 from number eight.

In terms of bowling, Nathan Lyon notched a five-for, but the other thing that stands out is that Yadavs dismissed five top order batters for single-figure scores over the course of the match, so you probably want an Umar or a Kuldeep in your side – ideally both.

A final point worth mentioning. It was Dharamsala where Jos Buttler got lost in the sandy outfield last year.

Take heed, England. Never look down at Dharamsala. Far better to look up and around. Behold the mountainous majesty! To ye, me beauty!


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. If I were a cricket administrator I would make it mandatory to bowl a mandatory 2 overs of wrist spin in every block of 15 overs. So that would ensure both Rehan & Kuldeep are picked. Having said that I expect England to pick 2 or more seamers with Stokes also bowling as a bonus.

    Unfortunately for India, the heydays of Umbrose (Umesh Yadav) are over & we have to settle for Akash Deep I guess.

  2. R Ashwin has been doing talking again.

    “You look them in the eye, you’ll know when somebody’s breaking. If somebody loves a dessert and you don’t feed them that dessert for 30 days, they’ll be funny. Under duress, people make a lot of mistakes. That’s why when people talk about overthinking – no, that’s my bread and butter. Only because I watch so much cricket and overthink can I catch people on the wrong foot.”

  3. Having Fiona Bruce do the pitch report makes a great deal of sense.

    For once she is providing answers rather than asking the questions. Mind ye, her answers raise yet more questions in my mind than I started with. Still, ye have done well there, KC.

      1. Might have words with her about that; not crediting her source and all that; passing others’ work off as her own.

        We never got any of this crap from The Printer from Office Space or Captain Ahab or any of them.

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