One of the great Test innings from Ben Stokes has seen England win the Third Test by one wicket- but the Aussies had two golden chances to retain the Ashes.
Preparing a spin track when playing against a team from the sub-continent can be a fatal mistake.
But that is not the case with the famous Sydney Cricket Ground (which was boasted as the most spin-friendly pitch in Australia) over the last few years.
The last time a sub-continent team won at the SCG was 24 years ago when Pakistan’s only win came in Sydney in 1995, and it was the leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed’s 9-for that won the match for Pakistan.
Since then, there have been nine contests between the Asian teams and Australia in the SCG, with the hosts winning it seven times out of nine. The other two Tests ended in a draw.
Furthermore, India’s only win at the Sydney Cricket Ground came in 1978. India played three spinners in that match – Bishan Bedi, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Erapalli Prasanna and the trio picked 16 Australian wickets to register the win.
So, it had been a spinner’s paradise. But is it now?
The truth is, the pitch in years has slowly turned into a batter’s wonderland instead of a spin-friendly one. It is apparent with the bowling average of spin bowlers in this track slowly deteriorating over the years.
For instance, here is a statistical report on the average of bowling averages of the top five wicket taking spin-bowlers at the Sydney Cricket Ground:
Until 1980s = 21.47
1981 – 1999 = 23.58
2000 – 2009 = 30.62
Since 2011 = 38.64
Two of the current day bests, Nathan Lyon and Ravi Ashwin, average 48.13 and 80.80 respectively at the SCG since 2011.
The number of wickets to spin bowlers at the SCG has also gone down significantly, stating the same sad news for spinners in this track.
In the last ten years, the spinners at the SCG have picked around 50 wickets with an average rising above 50.
On the other hand, the SCG has stayed beneficial to its batsmen. The SCG has seen 23 Test centuries in the last ten years alone, including the six scored by the visiting batsmen.
Above all, the match involving India and Australia in 2004 has turned in to the fifth highest match aggregate in Test cricket ever. There were 1747 runs scored in that drawn match.
Indeed, the quality of spinners has varied at times. Still the average rising above 50 for the spinners who have done brilliantly around the globe is the raising concern.
But, according to Tom Parker, the ex-head curator of the SCG, who bid his farewell last year, the SCG has its traditional spinning nature in it. But the above stats tell a different story.
Now, the SCG is once again in focus with Australia facing India, an opponent with a rich spin culture, for the 12th time in this venue.
The Indian team already has a 2-1 lead in the series and will try to finish on a high note.
On the other hand, the hosting captain who is already concerned with the previous pitches in this series has stated his concern that the dry Sydney pitch might work in favour of the tourists yet again.
A curious five days are ahead.