ADELAIDE: On his previous two tours of Australia — 2011-12 and 2014-15 —Ravichandran Ashwinhad claimed 21 wickets at 54 runs per scalp. It prompted his critics to claim that Ashwin may lose his place in the Test side to Ravindra Jadeja or Kuldeep Yadav on India’s current tour of Down Under.
The lanky off-spinner, however, shut up his critics on Friday with a splendid exhibition of classical spin bowling that left the Australians gasping in their first innings. It was mainly due to his lion-hearted effort that his team has its nose slightly ahead in the first Test that seems headed for a keen finish. Ashwin, who sent down as many as 33 overs — first 22 on the trot from the pavilion end — ended the day with figures of 3/50. Asked to sum up the state of the pitch, Ashwin admitted that slow nature of the surface here has surprised the Indian team.
“Usually, Adelaide generally offers a bit of spin but looking at the grass, we didn’t think we would get the hold that we are getting out there. There is a little bit of hold — not considerable or vicious — which is slowing down the ball off the surface. The pitch has slowed down considerably and I don’t expect it to quicken up either. I think it’s going to slow down more,” Ashwin opined.
A clever variation of pace and angle, loop and length created doubts in the minds of Australia’s relatively inexperienced batsmen, who lost their bearing and got out. Ashwin was particularly effective against the left-handers, accounting for three of them — Marcus Harris, Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja — to put India on top in the post-lunch session.
Ashwin put it down to the help he got from bowling into a strong northerly afternoon breeze blowing across the ground. “I was getting the ball to drift in the air both ways, in and out, and I was able to control both. That’s how I got Khawaja and Marsh out. The drift really worked in my favour today. It happens in Melbourne too. I bank on that to give me really good results,” he added.
Ashwin revealed that India’s game plan was to choke the flow of runs in the final session. “That is why I bowled an extended 22-over spell before and after tea. At this point, both teams appear to be neck and neck. Whoever gets the momentum will have the edge. Every run, from here, is going to be like gold dust.”