India will make a decision on the selection of R Ashwin on the morning of the World Test Championship final against Australia after assessing the conditions they find themselves in.
Although no rain was expected during the match, there was considerable interest on the surface at The Oval for the final, particularly as no Test cricket had ever been played at the ground in early June. Traditionally, the Oval has been known to help with tricks, as well as aiding swing-back, but this became the case for testing mainly towards the end of the summer. The pitch for the final is nothing new. It has been used before, but not for long.
Ashwin’s selection has been a constant theme during the recent Indian Test in England, or rather the fact that he was not selected. He completely missed the last round of Tests in England, where four Tests were played in 2021 and one last summer. In the last Indian Test at The Oval, in September 2021, they chose Ravindra Jadeja as the loner, relying on a three speed attack and Shardul Thakur as the all-around option.
The last test played by Ashwin in England was the last WTC final, against New Zealand in Southampton in 2021. Asked on the eve of this final about the difficulty of excluding a player like Ashwin, the Indian captain Rohit Sharma is guaranteed to do so. indicating that no decision has been made.
“I’m not saying Ashwin won’t play,” Rohit said. “We’ll wait until tomorrow because one thing I’ve seen here, the pitch is really changing a bit from day to day. Today it looks like that, tomorrow it might be a bit different, who knows. “So the message for the players is very clear. All 15s must be ready to play at all times.”
Based on the county game data, several behavioral traits are evident, the most obvious being that spin has almost no role to play.
The spinner only managed 32 overs in those games (average: 158), compared to the bowler’s pace of 745. No spinner on either side played more than seven overs in one inning. Surrey have yet to deploy specialist spinners, instead relying on Will Jacks’ half-time break. It was a deliberate tactic, the team played to their strengths as a good fast thrower. Locals say that’s why the surface has been adapted for good speed and bounces with little spin assistance as the game progresses.
Bounce is also likely to feature in the WTC Finals, at least according to Surrey curator Lee Fortis’ admittedly light-hearted exchange on Ashwin’s Youtube channel: “It’s going to bounce, that’s one thing, that will bounce back.”
The first half score at The Oval this season hasn’t been great. Surrey pitched first in every game, twice after winning the pitch the pitching team came out for 278, 254 and 209, with several swings and initial runs on offer. They won each of those games, eventually chasing goals of 243, 70 and 58 for a total of two wickets to spare.
First bowling may not have been a bad choice based on those numbers, but neither side went over 400 in their first innings, Surrey’s highest score of 380 after Middlesex were eliminated for 209.
With the largest sample size over the past five years, of the 16 county games played in or before June at The Oval, rounds played a larger role, with around 58 overs per game. Dan Ashwin made quite an impression playing here in July 2021, collecting six shots that helped Somerset to 69. The course was the fastest scoring point in those five seasons (June or earlier), at 3, 41 per more.
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