Low after the high
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Nick Compton took his regular middle-leg guard and waited for Ishant Sharma to wheel in. It was the start of the fifth over, on a Day One wicket. Sharma carried a glistening new hide in his right hand. Regular stuff, no surprises here. Then the man with the mane completed his action.
First ball, effort ball, well short of length. Compton had just begun shaping away from it, when the ball, travelling at knee height, was collected by 'keeper MS Dhoni on the third bounce. The real 'surprise', however, unfolded only next ball, when the ball's trajectory seemed to match the effort put in by Sharma's bent back. This time, with the ball on off stump, the England opener played for the low bounce, and poked at it. But the ball spiked fleetingly, clipped the shoulder of his bat and died inside Dhoni's gloves.
For the rest of the day, the ball would almost never climb that high again. For one, because Ishant was the only bowler in the Indian side with a run-up of longer than five paces. But mainly because the Jamtha wicket seemed to have a magnetic attraction to the ball. So, as debutant Ravindra Jadeja (who narrowly missed out to Ishant for Thursday's best bowling figures) put it at the end of the day, all India had to do was bowl 'stump to stump.' It had the opposition in knots.
So, as late as the fourth and final Test match of this series, India had chanced upon that elusive pitch to trouble the Englishmen. And the factor that troubled them most about the Jamtha surface was the bounce. Or the lack of it. "Incredibly hard to bat on this pitch," is how Kevin Pietersen, the day's top scorer with a stubborn 73 and the biggest reason for England's stumps score of 199 for five, described it. "It won't get any easier, I can assure you."