With lessons from past & aid from fru­gal pacers, off-spin­ner re­duces Aus­tralia to 191/7

The New Indian Express - - SPORT -

IN CEN­TU­RION, Ravichan­dran Ash­win had shown glimpses of how he can be a strike bowler when pacers are un­able to get break­throughs. In Eng­land with Dukes ball, he showed how he had shed the tag of be­ing a de­fen­sive bowler on for­eign shores.

Now in Ade­laide on Fri­day, with his team in the need of wick­ets, Ash­win showed that he has very much buried the no­tion that he can only be use­ful in home con­di­tions. The end re­sult? In­dia can fancy tak­ing a lead — a slen­der one, but a lead none­the­less — as Aus­tralia are still 59 away from the visitors’ first-in­nings total of 250. Go­ing for­ward, he will have a big­ger role to play. So what has changed from the Ash­win of old, who was con­sid­ered not good enough to be a first-choice op­tion in SENA (South Africa, Eng­land, New Zealand and Aus­tralia), to be­ing a go-to spin­ner now? Per­haps with age, he has un­der­stood him­self bet­ter. Pre­vi­ous tours of those coun­tries had left Ash­win with more ques­tions than an­swers. He learnt them the hard way, and by pick­ing the brains of bowl­ing coach Bharathi Arun.

One of the many good things about In­dia’s cur­rent bowl­ing unit is that they now see the big pic­ture of con­tribut­ing to the over­all cause. This is where Ash­win has ben­e­fit­ted from the tours to South Africa, Eng­land and Aus­tralia this year. Un­like pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, Ash­win now has the cush­ion of com­ing in to bowl af­ter pacers have given him an open­ing. That al­lows the off spin­ner to ex­ert fur­ther pres­sure with­out wor­ry­ing about the score­board. On Fri­day, In­dia’s speed­sters hadn’t made the kind of in­roads their Aus­tralia coun­ter­parts had made on Day 1. Ash­win was sum­moned as early as the 12th over. The visitors needed him to find his rhythm early. They needed Ash­win to be the en­forcer, one who dic­tates the terms. He did, en­joy­ing all the at­ten­tion that came with it. In the past, Ash­win has been guilty of bowl­ing too full and quick, a fact that has come from the horse’s mouth him­self. That wasn’t the case on Day 2; ad­just­ments in pace were made and the bats­men were left guess­ing.

The bril­liant set-up of Mar­cus Har­ris’ bat­pad dis­missal was one out­come of that. Ash­win got drift go­ing both ways, which led to bats­men play­ing from the crease and in line with the stumps. That gave him the wick­ets of Shaun Marsh and Us­man Khawaja. Even be­fore land­ing in Aus­tralia, Ash­win knew that ad­just­ing his pace would be key. Ac­cord­ing to Cricviz, dur­ing In­dia’s pre­vi­ous tour of this na­tion in 201415, only 54 per cent of Ash­win’s de­liv­er­ies were slower than 87kmph. On Fri­day, 75 per cent were slower than the said mark; a fac­tor that al­lowed him to get the said drift.


Aus­tralia’s Peter Hand­scomb (C) watches as In­dia play­ers ap­peal un­suc­cess­fully for his wicket dur­ing Day 2 of their first Test in Ade­laide

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