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Monday, February 15, 2021

Ravichandran Ashwin embellishes his 5 for with a ton !!

During India’s recent series Australia, Tim Paine sledged asking whether Ashwin’s team-mates like him ?  - for sure he would be following the 2nd test at Chepauk – and when Ravichandran Ashwin completed his ton – the stadium erupted, many millions were watching on TV and the home dressing room was bundle of joy – the sledger was proved to be far off the mark.     

Ages ago, a fearless Kapil Dev jumped to hit a 6 and reach his maiden 100 at Feroz Shah Kotla, today at Chepauk, Ashwin jumped to hoist the ball over long on for a six when he was on 91 !!  - a stamp and authority a la Viv Richards !!!


At close of play of day 3 – the score card reads : England 134 and 53 for 3 (Lawrence 19*, Root 2*) need 429 more runs to beat India 329 and 286 (Ashwin 106, Kohli 62, Moeen 4-98, Leach 4-100) – and those who criticized the ground calling it a sandpit or a dust bowl – would well have to soul-search to find words on how Ashwin batted and amassed runs.  As India flexed their muscle on day three, moving inexorably towards a series-levelling triumph over England, the second Chennai Test began to take on a carnival feel. Day 2 was Ravi Ashwin, the bowler and day 3 – it was Ashwin the classy batsman.   Notionally, England needed 482 to win or two-and-a-bit days of rearguard resistance. Practically, they were merely searching for scraps of encouragement to accompany them on the road to Ahmedabad.

Ashwin came into this game having not passed 50 in a Test since 2017, but after taking an aggressive approach from the outset, he eventually reached a raucously received hundred during the evening session - achieving the double of a century and a five-wicket haul in the same match for the third time. Going by the decibel levels of support that Ash had, none could say that stadium was half of its capacity  

The 34-year-old  who had clearly steered the match on an irreversible path with the ball on the second day, gutting Joe Root’s side to the tune of 134 all out with figures of five for 43 struck gold with the bat today.  Yesterday it was the off-spinner’s 29th five wicket-haul, and in less than half the 295 innings it has taken Jimmy Anderson to claim 30.  We have seen the likes of Ian Botham, Kapil Dev as all rounders – today,  Ashwin, it transpired, was close to their ranks.   A rare all-rounder’s double with a fine century from No8 - 106 from 148 balls, with 14 fours and one six - to send supporters in his home city of Chennai immensely happy. 

His route to three figures had featured numerous sweeps, and lots of  drama. When India resumed after tea, Ashwin was on 68 and had only the last two batsmen to keep him company; he might have been stumped almost straight away, but the ball eluded Ben Foakes - the brilliance of whose keeping had kept up English spirits earlier in the day - and he was 77 with India at 237/9 when  Mohammed Siraj joined him.  Indians were finally bowled out for 286 and Ashwin had completed a century in style. Expectant spectators were cheering every defence Siraj played as Ash raised the tempo.  Having moved to 90s with a couple of 4s,  he struck clean Moeen Ali,   into the stands before charging down to slice four more to third man and bring team-mates, family and spectators to their feet.

                      The issue on a turning surface has simply been one of skill, and despite a more proactive batting effort England were soon in trouble once again.  In the post innings interview Ashwin was to acknowledge the support of Vikram Rathour, the India batting coach,  who had worked hard with Ashwin, and further added that he has not played sweep shot for decades.

Statistically, Ashwin has scored a century and taken a five-for in Tests – 3 times. He had achieved this twice against West Indies, in Mumbai in 2011, and in North Sound in 2016.  The only  Player who has achieved this double of a century and a five-for in a Test more than Ashwin is Ian Botham  who did it five times in his 102-Test career - twice each in England and New Zealand, and once in India. Four allrounders have achieved this feat two times - Garry Sobers, Mushtaq Mohammad, Jacques Kallis, and Shakib Al Hasan.

In all probability the Test would end in favour of India on day 4 itself – what we wait to see is Ashwin adding another 4 wickets and thereby becoming 4th player after Botham, Imran and Shakib to take 10 wickets in a Test and score a century.

Well done Ravichandran Ashwin


With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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