Ash­win turns full cir­cle in SA con­di­tions

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA AND STU­ART HESS

An In­dian spin­ner dom­i­nat­ing on day one of a Test on the Highveld is a rare thing. When that spin­ner is Ravichan­dran Ash­win, whose last Test in these parts ended in self­doubt and be­ing dropped, it is a case of cricket go­ing full cir­cle.

On a topsy-turvy first day of the sec­ond Test at Cen­tu­rion, it was Ash­win who starred for the tourists, as South Africa limped badly to the close, end­ing on 269 for six.

“The one thing I have com­fort­ably done is con­ve­niently for­get the his­tory about South Africa,” Ash­win said of his last trip here.

“I am well over it and I want to put it be­hind me and stride ahead for­ward.”

Of course, his­tory doesn’t for­get, and it is of­ten used as a barom­e­ter for progress. On the ev­i­dence of yes­ter­day at Cen­tu­rion, Ash­win has ex­or­cised the demons of The Wan­der­ers, no doubt helped by the dom­i­nance he had over South Africa when they went to In­dia in 2015.

“I think I have won that re­spect from them, with how I have done against them since that last trip. I also think that crick­eters re­act to the sit­u­a­tion, and they play me dif­fer­ently now be­cause I have had some suc­cess against sev­eral of their batsmen,” he pointed out.

Ash­win’s fig­ures of three for

90 in 31 prob­ing overs spoke of a con­fi­dence, and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what he had to do on South African tracks.

“The 2013-14 tour was a re­al­ity check in terms of not be­ing able to win a Test match for the coun­try on day five, when all things were ctu­ally set up for a spin­ner,” he said of his pre­vi­ously chas­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ash­win is a proud bowler, and the help­less­ness he suf­fered that day hurt him deeply. He went to county cricket, and worked tire­lessly on learn­ing to bowl well in con­di­tions that didn’t of­fer as­sis­tance.

“It was kind of hit on my pro­fes­sional pride and from there on I knew I had to work on cer­tain things,” he ex­plained.

Where he was a ca­su­alty in 2014, he was a cat­a­lyst in 2018. He spun it, bounced it, looped it and toyed with all of South Africa’s batsmen, rev­el­ling in a pitch that played into his hands more than any­one could have an­tic­i­pated.

The Proteas, through Ai­den Markram, praised the off-spin­ner.

“We didn’t ex­pect there to be so much as­sis­tance for him. He was dif­fi­cult to face, he is dif­fi­cult to face on a flat wicket as well, so it did work out well for him I sup­pose,” Markram con­ceded.

“He still had to bowl well, so you need to give him some credit. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if the pitch will get harder and if it will con­tinue to spin like it did, or if it spun like that be­cause of the grass cov­er­ing. We’ll see in the next cou­ple of days,” he added.

Markram did re­veal that there was a quiet word from Vi­rat Kohli, as the Proteas’ opener left the field af­ter mak­ing 94.

“He came across and said, ‘Well played, you were un­lucky to get out.’ It was a great touch from him. He is a mas­sive com­peti­tor as ev­ery­one sees on TV, but it’s great to see he has got good val­ues that peo­ple off the field might not see. It was a great ges­ture and it meant a lot.”



Af­ter a pair of very poor dis­missals in Cape Town, Amla was able to get him­self a start here. He of­fered chances on 14 and 30 but some el­e­gant strokes al­lowed him to get on top of Ash­win, while his de­fence af­ter the misses was se­cure. Su­per­Sport Park is one of Amla’s favourite venues – he av­er­ages over 80 here – with five cen­turies in­clud­ing one dou­ble. Du Plessis and Pandya may have cost him a sixth hun­dred.


Two proved costly for In­dia; Pandya’s div­ing one to his left at short mid­wicket when Amla had 14 was hard, Parthiv Pa­tel’s down leg side off Ishant Sharma wasn’t. There were a few raised eye­brows about Pa­tel’s in­clu­sion as Saha, who claimed the In­dian record for most dis­missals in a Test last week, was thought to be in fine fet­tle. He hurt his ham­string, most likely in the warm-ups.


Turn is the one el­e­ment South African skip­per Faf du Plessis does not want to see and es­pe­cially on day one of a home Test. But Ash­win was get­ting it to spin and bounce in the first ses­sion yes­ter­day. The Su­per­Sport Park grounds­man Bryan Bloy had been con­cerned the sur­face might be too dry, given the re­cent heat­wave. There’s still brown grass on the sur­face, and that will hope­fully hold the pitch to­gether.


Are we watch­ing the be­gin­nings of the ca­reer of an­other star all­rounder? Hardik Pandya has al­ready given us a taste of his ad­ven­tur­ous tal­ent at New­lands with both bat and ball. Yes­ter­day he pro­duced a stun­ning run-out that turned the en­tire day – and pos­si­bly the match on its head. It was a poor call by Faf du Plessis sure, but Pandya’s light­ning re­ac­tions, in his fol­low-through, the pick-up, turn and throw to knock back the stumps with Amla short of his ground was mag­nif­i­cent.

That in­duced a col­lapse of 3 for 5 in 13 balls. This is a crick­eter that de­mands at­ten­tion re­gard­less of what he’s do­ing in the game.

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