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On Familiar Terrain, Ashwin Unveils the Range of his Craft on Hapless Windies

Nikhil Narain |October 6, 2018, 8:22 PM IST
On Familiar Terrain, Ashwin Unveils the Range of his Craft on Hapless Windies

While Kuldeep Yadav’s maiden five-for and Ravindra Jadeja’s dismantling of the tail got most of the attention in Rajkot, R Ashwin, in his own quiet way produced yet another high-caliber performance to contribute to an Indian win at home. He finished with figures of 6/108 in the match and began the Windies slide on the third morning that they simply could not arrest, succumbing meekly by the end of the day.

Ashwin was introduced in the 42nd over and straight away started asking questions of the West Indian batsmen. He kept it tight on or around the off-stump mixing his pace and length. He created a chance off the fourth ball of his day's spell - a length ball which jumped awkwardly - Chase played back with an open face - a diving Pant messed it up. But Ashwin was in his groove now. This was his den. He is like a Lion at home.

He got his man off the second delivery of his next over - Chase - the best Windies batsman and also their highest scorer and the only one to cross fifty in the first innings - with a peach of a delivery. A well flighted delivery which had dip and drift both, pitched outside off - Chase went for the drive against the turn - but a yawning gap between bat and pad only meant an inside edge onto the stumps.

He then bamboozled Lewis varying his pace and length outside off beating him twice in two balls. He then foxed him with a leg-cutter - the ball pitched on middle-stump on a good length area and moved the other way to hit the off stump. Lewis was playing for the conventional off-break. He was stunned.

Two wickets in the over for Ashwin. The master of his craft was at his best in his own backyard.

Soon he was all over Number 11 Gabriel - beating him with a carrom ball, then a off-break. He then spun one away from off. Gabriel lifted his back leg and was stumped by Pant.

Ashwin had four for the innings. This was the 20th time (innings) in the last five years that he had picked 4 wickets in an innings. Only Herath with 21 has more four-wicket hauls.

With this spell, Ashwin had ensured that there was not even a hint of any resistance from the West Indies. He has ensured that the Indian bowlers were still fresh and Virat Kohli forced a follow on.

And he had ensured, as he had on numerous occasions in the last five years, that India's dominance at home continued.

The West Indies were demoralized. They were broken.

In numbers this is what Ashwin did in the morning session - 24 balls, 20 dot balls, 10 runs (including 5 leg byes), 3 wickets, 4 scoring balls, 11 beaten balls!

Most of his deliveries were between the 6 metres to 4 metres mark (distance from the stumps). He bowled outside the off stump (to right handers) pitching it in good length areas and making the ball spin into the right-hander with the odd one keeping straight and going the other way.

He had a clear strategy - when he bowled slower (between 0-55 miles per hour), he pitched it outside the off stump giving it more flight and a chance to turn. He also pitched it slightly fuller then. When he bowled faster and flatter (between 55-80 miles per hour) he bowled closer to the off stump.

West Indies trailed India by 468 runs in the first innings.

But Ashwin wasn't done yet. After troubling Brathwaite with the fourth and fifth deliveries of the over, Ashwin forced him to push a length ball spinning into leg straight to Shaw at short leg. Ashwin broke the opening partnership.

His effort and magic inspired the young Kuldeep Yadav, playing just in his fourth Test. The left-arm wrist spinner ran through the Windies line-up, picking up his first fifer in Test cricket.

Ashwin himself returned to pick the 8th wicket of the West Indian second innings (Bishoo) finishing with six wickets in the match.

West Indies were bowled out for 196 giving India their biggest victory in Test cricket - by an innings and 272 runs!

This performance was yet more evidence, if any was needed, that Ashwin is among the greatest match-winners in Test cricket over the last few years.

No bowler in the world has picked more wickets than Ashwin in Test cricket in the last 5 years. His 241 wickets in this time-frame in just 47 Tests means that he picks more than 5 wickets per match – now that is exceptional!

Ashwin's record at home is outstanding. He has been the leading wicket-taker (148 wickets in 24 home Tests) only behind James Anderson (155 in 32 home Tests) in this period.

He also has the best wicket-taking ability in this period amongst all spinners in world cricket. Ashwin has picked a wicket every 8 overs in India.

He has conceded just 21.45 runs per wicket and also been very restrictive giving away just 2.77 runs per over.

Ashwin has been the main reason for India's complete dominance in Home Series in this period.

India have played 24, won 18 and lost just one solitary Test in this period. That is the best win-loss ratio amongst all teams. Australia with 19 wins and 2 losses from 26 games is second in this regard.

And India owe that record, in no small part, to Ravichandran Ashwin. This Rajkot day was just yet another another day at home for the 32-year old from Chennai.

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2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
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2 India 6807 122
3 New Zealand 4763 113
4 Australia 5470 112
5 South Africa 5193 110
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2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
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