Motera, not a happy hunting ground for India in Tests

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India have not won a single Test in seven years at Sardar Patel Stadium, venue of their series-opener against England and the hosts would aim to reverse the trend and gain early initiative against the tourists.

It was in December 2005 that India tasted their last Test win against Sri Lanka on this ground in Motera, which made its debut as a Test centre in November 1983 when the West Indies under Clive Lloyd visited the country against the Emerald Islanders.

India's comprehensive 259-run victory against Sri Lanka was followed by a disastrous outing on a seaming track against the South African pace attack spearheaded by Dale Steyn that resulted in a humiliating innings and 90-run defeat for the home team in April 2008.

The hosts' star-studded batting line-up comprising of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman and Sourav Ganguly were bowled out for a meagre 76 in 20 overs leading to many derisive remarks as the Twenty20 World Cup title had been won by India just the previous year and was to be followed by the Indian Premier League's first edition.

Two more drawn results followed that defeat against the Proteas -- Sri Lanka in November 2009 and New Zealand in November 2010. In the latter game, Chris Martin had rocked India with his seam-up bowling in the second innings.

In all, India have won only three out of 11 Tests played at this ground, including back-to-back wins in 1994 and 1996 over Sri Lanka and South Africa respectively. Incidentally, it was pacer Javagal Srinath who emerged hero on a wearing fifth day pitch and blew away the Proteas for 105 with 6 for 21.

Meanwhile, the track for the India-England game is an unknown entity as the entire centre square has been re-laid before the monsoon rains.

The relaying of the wicket has resulted in 20 per cent less clay content in the soil mix, according to Gujarat Cricket Association sources in the know-how of the pitch preparations.

The pitch is being watered but care is taken to see that it's not in excess as the content of clay component in the mix has been brought down from 75 per cent earlier to round 55 per cent, the sources informed.

They also dismissed fears that the match may not last five days though the pitch looked bone-dry to the naked eye and appears to be loaded in favour of spin bowling. Only two 50-over practice games have been played to test the wicket after it had been re-laid.

"It's a five-day wicket, but ultimately the duration of any game depends on how the teams play on it. There would be some carry and movement in the initial stages," the GCA sources maintained.
However, the general opinion is that the dry wicket will crumble at some stage of the game and produce a result.

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