Grip and turn. Spinners worth their salt in the Deodhar Trophy would be expected to make use of the favourable characteristics of the pitch at the Ferozeshah Kotla here.
The pitch was different from the one exploited well by spinners on Tuesday, but not in contrast; it was a platform set to test Odisha’s left-arm spinner Pappu Roy, who was bowling to some of the best batsmen in the country.
Roy did what was expected of him, and more. He mixed his deliveries expertly, unsettling batsmen with his loop and turn; on the odd occasion, he would bowl the arm ball. He served up aesthetic delights with his sharp, accurate deliveries that beat the bat. But what made him stand out was his unruffled, smart response to pressure put on him by batsmen targeting him – Manoj Tiwary and K. Gowtham.
His first scalp was perhaps off the worst delivery among the three that got him the wickets. As he settled in the first couple of overs, Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari looked to play him safely. Iyer, however, couldn’t resist poking his bat out to a delivery that turned sharply wide of off-stump. The wicketkeeper made no mistake and Iyer trudged back after an awkward knock.
A loose delivery – short and wide – resulted in the first boundary taken off Roy. But soon after, Manoj Tiwary gave him the charge to collect a four and a six – a flick through midwicket and an inside-out lofted drive through long-off.
Those deliveries weren’t wayward, but Roy chose to reply, in the fourth delivery to Tiwary after that six, with a ball that pitched on middle, spun just enough to beat the batsman’s defences, and dislodged the bails. Tiwary was foxed.
With his tails up, Roy beat the bat a number of times. On two occasions, the wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan came close to a stumping dismissal.
After his first spell – 7-0-27-2 – Roy was introduced again in the 37th over of the innings. This time, K. Gowtham seemed to take a liking to him, pelting him for sixes down the ground.
But when Gowtham attempted another, he did it off a delivery that was wider of the crease. He went through with his stroke and holed out to the fielder at long-off, who ran to his left to complete the catch.
After the contest, Gowtham admitted to not having reached the pitch of the ball when he hit the sixes. Recalling his joust with Roy, he said, “I did tonk a couple of sixes but at the same time I couldn't get to the pitch of the ball, but could clear the boundary because of the power.”
Vihari chose to understandably play Roy safely in his final over, allowing the bowler to limit his economy rate to 4.50. The boundaries notwithstanding, the bowler had been hard to get away with; more importantly, accomplished batsmen stumbled against him.
Gowtham, a spinner himself, assessed his counterpart’s bowling. “If you have reached this level, you have to be good. He’s done well in the domestic circuit, in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (14 wickets at 18.42). He doesn’t have too much of a height, because of that you won’t get too much of a bounce [and] you can't get underneath the ball. He’s using that as his weapon and to his advantage,” he said.
He identified areas Roy could improve upon. “If he can work a little more on his accuracy and read the batsmen a little better, I guess he can be a better bowler,” he said.
To rub shoulders with some of the domestic heavyweights and to take three wickets could do a world of good for the confidence of the 23-year-old who made his List A debut last month, in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
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