Ade­laide Drift

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Anand Vasu,

You get the drift? This is a ques­tion that peo­ple will com­monly ask you when they want to know if you have un­der­stood what they’re say­ing, if you’ve got the hang of what the con­ver­sa­tion is all about. You know who re­ally gets the drift of cricket? R Ash­win, that’s who.

On a Fri­day that dawned over­cast and muggy and grad­u­ally drifted to­wards windy and even threat­ened light rain, Ash­win bowled a be­witch­ing spell of off-spin that turned the most ag­gres­sive bat­ting team in re­cent his­tory into meek by­s­tanders, in­tent on mere sur­vival, con­tent with a drip-drip of run-scor­ing.

When the pitch isn’t do­ing nearly enough, and it was only the se­cond day of the Test, and the seam on the ball was not the most pro­nounced, a skil­ful bowler will find other ways to get wick­ets. On the day, the wind was Ash­win’s best friend. For a tall off­spin­ner with a high-arm ac­tion, the re­lease point is al­ways go­ing to be so high that toss­ing the ball too much, even to get it over the bats­man’s eye­line, is not re­ally an op­tion.

But Ash­win, the one-time wannabe en­gi­neer, brought into play an­gles and aero­dy­nam­ics in a su­perbly ef­fi­cient ex­hi­bi­tion of har­ness­ing the el­e­ments to best ef­fect. Mar­cus Har­ris, the debu­tant, will have faced Nathan Lyon in the nets, but his brand of off­spin is con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent from what Ash­win serves up. Lyon likes to hit the splice of the bat hard, bowls a pre­dom­i­nantly out­side off-stump line and re­lies more on bounce than vari­a­tion to work bats­men out.

Har r i s would not have played an offie of Ash­win’s var­ied bag of tricks and he gave good ac­count of him­self on the way to 26, even com­ing down the pitch to hit Ash­win back down the ground, but he was foxed by the ball that got him out. Har­ris did ev­ery­thing right, watch­ing the ball from Ash­win’s hand and set­ting him­self up to play the line cor­rectly, but the drift took the ball in to the left-hand bats­man just enough to take the in­side edge and boom off pad to the fielder un­der the hel­met at silly mid-off.

Ash­win’s next two wick­ets were also left-han­ders — a species against whom he av­er­ages less than 20 runs per dis­missal in Test cricket — Us­man K h aw a j a a n d S h a u n Ma r s h . In­ter­est­ingly, most of Aus­tralia have piled their bat­ting hopes in the Khawaja-Marsh bat­ting bas­ket. Khawaja feath­ered an edge to the keeper off one that turned a bit more than he ex­pected and kissed glove and Marsh’s am­bi­tious drive af­ter be­ing lured out­side off crashed back onto the stumps.

Ash­win ended the day with fig­ures of 33-9-50-3 in­clud­ing an un­bro­ken spell of 22 overs. Asked to ex­plain whether he was happy with his work on the day, Ash­win was as ar­tic­u­late as bats­men were clue­less in play­ing him.

“Ob­vi­ously if I wasn’t happy with to­day’s spell, I won’t be happy with many oth­er­days.Look,to­bev­ery pre­cise, there is not a lot hap­pen­ing off the straight, or fizzing through, noth­ing likethat.Iwas­get­ting­drift­both­ways,in and out, and I was able to con­trol both that drift and get the bats­men hold­ing their feet in­side the stump and out­side the stump,” ex­plained Ash­win.

“That’s how we got Khawaja out and In­dia off-spin­ner

Marsh out as well. That’s some­thing that re­ally worked in my favour to­day be­cause of the drift, the ball go­ing away and com­ing back in. It hap­pens in Mel­bourne too. So I am bank­ing on that to give me some re­ally good re­sults.”

If the se­cond day of the first Test was any­thing to go by, the Aus­tralians are go­ing to have their work cut out for them against Ash­win in the rest of the series. Imag­ine con­di­tions where there was turn, vari­able bounce or fizz, on top of the drift that Ash­win has just be­friended and turned into his best ally?

There will lit­er­ally be no way to re­sist him, whether try­ing to just oc­cupy the crease and block, with field­ers around the bat, or at­tack him and score quickly. You get the drift? Good for you, as Aus­tralia’s bats­men cer­tainly did not.

Ravichan­dran Ash­win (left) led from the front to put In­dia marginally ahead as Travis Head (right) kept Aus­tralia in the game with a gritty half-cen­tury

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