India vs England Mumbai Test: Ashwin stars again as Vijay, Pujara get it right

Updated: Dec 13, 2016, 10:06 IST | Shishir Hattangadi

Ashwin’s 6-112 keeps England down to 400 before hosts’ batting duo threaten to out-bat visitors

India’s R Ashwin in full cry against England on Day Two of the fourth Test at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai yesterday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
India's R Ashwin in full cry against England on Day Two of the fourth Test at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai yesterday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

With no wickets to the fast bowlers, the Indian spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shouldered the burden in the wickets column. Ashwin’s career graph has been admirable.

Right from the time he grabbed eyeballs in the early editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), one wondered if he would be a success in the longer format of the game.

Taking over in style
With his senior Harbhajan Singh fading away after a distinguished career, Ashwin has taken the responsibility of being the senior pro of the spin attack. His 241 Test wickets with yesterday’s six-wicket haul, is only indicative of his ability to handle the pressure of being India’s key bowler.

It is evident with the evolution of the game, especially with technology, that he is evolving, and yet, adding to his own armoury with new variations. The new theory seems to be asking a new set of questions to batsmen who have studied the bowlers’ syllabus through videos.

Ashwin seems a smart enough student of spin bowling to keep posing different questions to batsmen. His performance yesterday is only another feather in his cap in the way he has grown in stature with his performances. India needed a spirited, positive start to create pressure on the England attack.

Murali Vijay and KL Rahul were well on that journey till Moeen Ali produced a classical off spinner’s delivery to bowl Rahul through the gate. From there on, it was the Vijay-Pujara show. This was a critical innings from Vijay’s perspective. Starting the series with a hundred, he let himself down with soft dismissals.

His unbeaten half-century could well be a defining innings for India because he can take the game away with his domineering effect if he bats the first session today.

Pujara has carried his form from each Test match outing. He is now showcasing his form with a renewed purpose of looking for runs. His presence in the middle will always create a sense of pressure in the opposition camp. His form and demeanour to play a long innings will always play on the bowlers’ mind.

Pitching it right
The Wankhede pitch looked better than when India bowled. It had more to do with the speeds and lengths as compared to England. To find the right speed and length has been the key to bowlers succeeding on this track and sometimes finding that could take a while. The first hour today will shape the trend of this Test. James Anderson & Co will come hard at the two set batsmen. India will have to ensure that the runs keep trickling so that captain Cook may have to go to his plan B.

The scoreboard cannot afford to go numb from the runs perspective. India will need to ensure that and England, just an antithesis of India’s plan.

The writer is a former Mumbai Ranji Trophy captain

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