India all-rounder Shardul Thakur is of the opinion that The Oval pitch being used for the ongoing World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia was under-prepared going into the match. He added that the surface is behaving very differently from the one on which India took on England in 2021.
India beat England 157 runs in The Oval Test a couple of years back, with Thakur scoring fifties in both innings. The fighting efforts were fluent knocks and the all-rounder constructed another tenacious half-century on Day 3 of the WTC final on Friday. On this occasion, though, he had to cop a couple of nasty blows as some of the deliveries misbehaved.
Thakur (51) and Ajinkya Rahane (89) added 109 for the seventh wicket as India recovered from 152/6 to post 296 in their first innings.
Speaking at the end of the day’s play, the Thakur opened up about the challenge of batting on the surface in use for the WTC final.
“The pitch is surely different. The last time we played, the pitch was doing something and everyone knows if there is cloud cover in England the ball moves around. As the game went forward last time and the team started taking rollers it became flat. But this time it was not anything like that. It was under-prepared I felt going into the game. Like we saw yesterday and today it was a bit up and down,” he said.
The 31-year-old elaborated that some balls were taking off from a length where batters couldn’t leave the deliveries alone.
“If we see yesterday’s play also, the pitch changed a little. Ball was hard and bouncing from odd length. With six wickets down on the board, not too many runs, under pressure, yes you would say the toughest hour though I have played handful of game but felt like welcome to Test cricket," Thakur explained.
“There is an area from where the ball is coming up, there is a little grass around the crack and the length is such that batsmen can’t leave the deliveries easily. You have to play, commit because we saw today many balls kept down and I mean that is an area of good length, and I mean, that area is at a good length, a little short of length," he continued.
“So that’s the area where the batsmen can’t immediately see and leave the ball. You have to play it. And if it bounces from there, then good luck to the batsmen. It was bouncing from the other end too - but from a bit behind, so the batsmen were getting time to adjust,” Thakur added.
With his fighting knock, Thakur equaled Sir Don Bradman and Allan Border’s record of most consecutive 50-plus scores in Tests by a visiting batter at The Oval - three.
“Ajinkya is known as the top player in world cricket” - Thakur on Rahane
While Thakur played a defiant knock, it was Rahane who top-scored for India, and that too on his comeback, smashing 89 off 129 balls.
Praising the senior batter, Thakur described Rahane as a "top player".
“I think Ajinkya is known as the top player in world cricket. And he has played overseas for India, where he has scored a lot of centuries and has built a lot of partnerships. In England, Australia, and in the last South African series he batted very well," he said.
“Last time also, when he was going through a lean patch, it didn't seem like he would get out. He was always batting well. And this time, the domestic matches that he has played, the runs that he has made in Ranji Trophy, we saw him batting with that confidence,” Thakur added.
Rahane struck 11 fours and a six before perishing to Pat Cummins. It needed a one-handed stunner at gully from Cameron Green to end the veteran Indian batter’s resistance.