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IPL 2019 | Chennai's Very Own Ashwins Have a Happy Homecoming

The two Ashwins helped Punjab apply the middle-overs choke on Chennai, conceding just 46 runs from a combined eight overs.

Karthik Lakshmanan |Cricketnext |April 6, 2019, 8:37 PM IST
IPL 2019 | Chennai's Very Own Ashwins Have a Happy Homecoming

"Literally, I own that space at Chepauk. It will feel lovely (to play against CSK in Chennai). I will again get a chance to showcase my skills in front of my home crowd. That is all that matters to me. It is a ground that has great memories. It has been part of my meteoric rise. Coming back there and play against CSK, it may probably motivate me more."

This is how R Ashwin reacted last year to the prospect of playing Chennai Super Kings in Chennai, after being picked up by Kings XI Punjab. Ashwin didn't get an opportunity last IPL as CSK's home games were shifted to Pune. He had to wait a year for that 'emotional moment', and ensured he grabbed it with both hands with a spell of 3 for 23 to restrict CSK to 160.

Incredibly enough, R Ashwin picked up all three wickets that fell in CSK's innings. But he was neither the only bowler nor the only Chennai boy, or even the only Ashwin, to perform with the ball; legspinner M Ashwin silently played his part too, conceding just 23 from his four overs although he went wicketless.

This wasn't the first time the Ashwin duo were operating with success this season. The roles were reversed in their win over Mumbai Indians, where M Ashwin got a couple of key wickets while R Ashwin went wicketless in tidy spells.

The Ashwins, who incidentally studied in the same college in Chennai, operated together at a crucial juncture. CSK had raced to 54 without loss in the Power Play, when M Ashwin applied the brakes with a first over that cost just one run. The Punjab captain benefitted from the pressure when Shane Watson holed out in the seventh over.

Murugan Ashwin KXIP

After the start that CSK had, their next five overs produced only 25 runs as the two Ashwins operated in tandem, with Andrew Tye slipping in a quiet over in between. M Ashwin bowled flat and straight giving nothing away. R Ashwin tried all his variations, including even a side-arm Kedar Jadhav-esque delivery.

The constant pressure ultimately got wickets. Faf du Plessis holed out to long-on, while Suresh Raina played an ugly slog the very next ball only to be bowled. CSK would rue the two shots in R Ashwin's final over - it was the last over of spin given Punjab were playing just two spinners.

That Punjab played just two spinners on the spin-friendly Chepauk track shows captain Ashwin's form and confidence in himself. With Mujeeb Ur Rahman playing nearly all games last season, Punjab had him bowling in the Power Play. R Ashwin made a name for himself bowling within Power Plays when with CSK, but he bowled just eight overs in Power Plays through IPL 2018.

This year too, the captain held himself back in the first two games, even opting unsuccessfully for Varun Chakravarthy against Kolkata Knight Riders. The young mystery spinner went for 25 in that over, hit around the park by Sunil Narine, forcing R Ashwin to take the job upon himself in the subsequent games.

R Ashwin has opened the bowling in Punjab's next three matches, and done so successfully. Against Mumbai, he bowled a tidy spell that restricted them to a below-par total. Against Delhi Capitals, he had Prithvi Shaw caught behind first ball before having Shikhar Dhawan later. And now against CSK, he's got three crucial wickets operating at the top.

M Ashwin, meanwhile, has silently flown under the radar. He made headlines in 2016 when he was picked up by Rising Pune Supergiant for Rs. 4.5 crore. Since then, he has shifted to Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore with little success, before the latest shift to KXIP this season.

The two Ashwins helped Punjab apply the middle-overs choke on Chennai, conceding just 46 runs from a combined eight overs. However, it was the reverse choke - Chennai's three spinners combined for just 61 runs from 12 overs - that decided the result of the game.

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