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Sunday, February 14, 2021

India tightens grip at Chepauk - Ashwin draws closer to 400

15 wickets tumbled on day 2 at Chepauk reminding us of the famous Indian spin quartet spinning the opponents out .. .. but unlike yesteryear’s batting line-up – Rohit Sharma’s brilliance ensured upperhand for the hosts.  The World of Cricket makes instinctive assessment of its heroes in the age of television and social media – if one were to dig deeper into statistics and performances, perceptions might change – for the better too.

Today belonged the offie Ravichandran Ashwin.  Statistically, he is just 9 away from 400 and perhaps can beat Nathan Lyon who is at 399.  Ash has played 75 tests / 140 innings  for 386 (prior to this test) while Lyon has played 100 tests / 191 innings.  The best of the Cricket photos was not seen in ESPN / BCCI or any sports web but from our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji who visited Chennai and posted an aerial photo of the stadium on his twitter. #TNwelcomesModiji

When we grew up there was the famous quartet : Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan (both off spinners), Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (leg spinner), and Bishen Singh Bedi (left-arm spinner). Between them, they played 231 Test matches, taking 853 wickets.  But even those days whence spin ruled, playing  two offspinners was a rarity.  In the last test India did play Ashwin and Washington Sundar.   Many off-spinners have played for India – not all of them with great success – there had been   Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivasan Venkatraghavan, Shivlal Yadav, Arshad Ayub, Gopal Sharma,  M Venkatramana, Ashish Kapoor, Ashok Patel,  Nikhil Chopra, Sarandeep Singh, Romesh Powar – and .. .. .. Ravichandran Ashwin – a real match winner.

An interesting piece of statistics -  Ash has thus far dismissed 200 - Left-hand batsmen. He is the first bowler to reach that mark. Of the 391 Test wickets for Ashwin, 200 are of left-hand batsmen, which is an impressive percentage of 51.2. Next on the list of most left-handers dismissed is Muttiah Muralitharan, but only 23.9% of his victims (191 out of 800) were left-hand batsmen. Ashwin averages 19.55 against left-handers, and 31.24 against right-handers.

This day at Chepauk, India took giant strides towards levelling the series after running through England and then building steadily on a 195-run lead. Fifteen wickets fell in the day, R Ashwin claiming five of them in an innings for the 29th time in Tests, as England's hopes of hanging in the contest on a turning pitch were obliterated in two sessions of skittish batting.

The best of the comments came from a quality Off-spinner who took 255 test wickets – an English man - Graeme Swann.  He tweeted : I have no problem at all with a pitch offering this much spin (hardly a surprise naturally). We prepare green pitches to suit our bowlers at home when deemed necessary so it’s fair game. We should be taking notes on how to excel from Rohit Sharma & Rishab Pant.

England were in trouble from the outset of their reply, losing Rory Burns in the opening over and Joe Root, the batting talisman during three consecutive wins in Sri Lanka and India, before he had managed double - let alone triple - figures. They sneaked past the follow-on mark thanks to a nuggety, unbeaten 42 from Ben Foakes, but India were doubtless content to bat again on a commanding lead, and leave England to worry about facing their demons on days three and four.

India has forged themselves a strong position on the back of Rohit's conditions-defying 161 on day one, and although they could only add 29 runs to their overnight 300 for 6, the bowlers soon ensured that England were dismissed cheaply.  Ishant Sharma trapped Burns lbw third ball for the opener's second consecutive duck and Ashwin struck twice either side the dismissal of Root to leave England in dire straits on 39 for 4 at lunch. Axar Patel, on debut, was the man to deny England's captain and batting bellwether a first-innings hundred for the first time this year, detonating a sharply turning delivery as Root looked to deploy his favoured sweep shot, a top edge safely pouched by Ashwin at short fine leg. Ashwin, on his home ground, gave an exemplary display of how to harness helpful conditions, alternating his pace, lines of attack and method of delivery to keep England's batsman pinned down.  

The ball that took Ben Stokes was a peach – a   beautifully flighted delivery that defeated the batsman in the air and off the pitch to shudder off stump.  Rishab leapt to glory with a couple of great catches.  

Indian Cricket fan has already started dreaming of a quick finish to the Test (not going into the 5th day) and Ashwin drawing closer to 400 .. .. a quality bowler, he is destined for 500 and more and to think that he was not picked for some tests smacks of raw politics rather than any thoughtful selection.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar



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