Ashwin shows composure matters; pitch, in this case, doesn’t
Unplayable, poor, sandpit… The Chepauk pitch for the second India-England Test earned a plethora of potshots over the last three days and yet Ravichandran Ashwin, a No.8 batsman whose primary role in the team is of a spinner, went on to register a strokeful century on it.
While the English batsmen continued to struggle trying to spot the turning ball, Ashwin followed up his five-for earlier in the match with a robust batting display on Monday, recording his fifth Test century and thereby enabling India to stand at the gateway of a series-levelling win in Chennai.
At his home ground, Ashwin has been calling all the shots. When he bowls, the pitch appears a turner; when he bats, the same track seems as flat as a concrete road.
Courtesy Ashwin’s 106 (4x14, 6x1), India stretched their second-innings total to 286. Left with an Everest to climb (target 482), England were wobbling at 53/3 at stumps on Day III.
Even captain Joe Root hasn’t looked steady and had a close shave in the last over of the day bowled by Axar Patel when a DRS review ruled him not out for lbw. “It doesn’t matter what we think as the umpire’s decision was final,” Axar later said when asked about the decision going in favour of Root though ball-tracking showed it would have crashed on to the stumps.
Captain Virat Kohli looked upset with the decision and appeared to remonstrate with on-field umpire Nitin Menon over the DRS verdict.
But with Ashwin and Axar turning the ball viciously on a disciplined length, something that the England spinners didn’t, the match seems headed only one way, unless the Roots can conjure up a miracle.
The morning wasn’t all too bad for England — India were 106/6 — but Ashwin and Virat Kohli (62) dashed their hopes with a 96-run stand.
While Kohli was resolute in defence, Ashwin employed the sweep perfectly. “Virat and Ashwin showed that if you’ve got the skill set, you can score enough runs on a bowler-friendly pitch like this as well,” former India wicketkeeper-batsman Deep Dasgupta told The Telegraph.
Ashwin benefited from Jack Leach and Moeen Ali’s inconsistent bowling — they bowled way too many loose deliveries — and was also let off thrice. Batting alongside No.10 and 11 — Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Siraj — he remained composed enough to reach the magic figure.
Composure matters; the pitch, in this case, doesn’t.
• R. Ashwin has now scored a 100 and taken a five-wicket haul in the same Test match on three occasions. England’s Ian Botham is the only player to do it more times (5) in Test cricket.
• Sir Garry Sobers, Mushtaq Mohammad, Jacques Kallis, and Shakib-al Hasan have each done it twice.
• For India, Vinoo Mankad (184 & 5/196, Lord’s, 1952) and Polly Umrigar (172* & 5/107, Port of Spain, 1962) have achieved this feat once.
Ashwin’s three instances
• 103 & 5/156 v WI (Mumbai) 2011
• 113 & 7/83 v WI (North Sound) 2016
• 106 & 5/43 v Eng (Chennai) 2021
Note: Ashwin’s all-round feat is the 33rd instance of a player doing the double of a century and a five-wicket haul in the same Test match.
• This was Ashwin’s fifth Test century. He now has three in India and two in the Caribbean. Besides, he has two hundreds in the Ranji Trophy.
• Three of Ashwin’s Test centuries have come while batting at number 8 and below. This is the most for India by a batsman batting at positions 8 to 11. Kapil Dev, Harbhajan Singh, and MS Dhoni have all made two centuries each in these positions.
• Cheteshwar Pujara (140 inns) has now been dismissed run out on nine occasions. Only one other Indian batsman has been run out more times — Rahul Dravid, 13 (284 inns). Sachin Tendulkar was also run out 9 times (329 inns).
• The highest fourth-innings total in any Test match in Asia is Bangladesh’s 413 v Sri Lanka at Mirpur in 2008. England’s target is 482.