Mumbai Test: Great players create chances, that's R Ashwin for you!

Updated: Dec 12, 2016, 11:45 IST | Aakash Chopra |

What does a score like 288-5 suggest? On most pitches in India it will be considered a below-par effort on the first day after winning the toss

Ravichandran Ashwin. Pic/AFP
Ravichandran Ashwin. Pic/AFP

What does a score like 288-5 suggest? On most pitches in India it will be considered a below-par effort on the first day after winning the toss. But here at the Wankhede, it's a score that should make the batting side happy, for this isn't a pitch where batting five sessions is a possibility.

The Wankhede pitch is made of red soil (most pitches across the country are made of black soil with high clay content) and therefore, unlike other pitches, it offers more bounce and turn. It also dries up quicker and crumbles faster than the rest.

The first signs of what to expect from the pitch appeared in the eighth over of the day when a delivery took a piece of the pitch while landing. There's enough evidence to suggest that the first innings of this game, for both sides, is going to determine their fate. I feel England are 112 runs away from safety and India have a window of 50 runs, or an hour on the second morning to stay competitive in this game. Whichever team wins the first session today is likely to be in the driver's seat.

Hameed's apt replacement
At the start of the tour, Alastair Cook found an able partner in Haseeb Hameed. Today, he has not just found a worthy successor for Hameed, but also a potential No. 3 batsman. Keaton Jennings got a reprieve without opening his account and that turned out to be the only blemish in his dominating century on Test debut. He started as a skeptical driver, but grew in confidence as his innings progressed. The way he handled spinners employing three different varieties of the sweep shot, (paddle sweep, proper sweep and the reverse sweep) reminded me of the great Andy Flower.

He's been quick to read the length and, more importantly, didn't allow the pitch or the quality of the Indian spinners to alter his response. The other refreshing aspect of England's batting in the opening session was their intent to keep the scoreboard ticking. Once again, Ashwin showcased why he's a serial Man of the Match and Man of the Series award winner. Good players wait for chances to capitalise, but great players create those chances.

Treat to watch
Ashwin's display of his control over his craft was sensational to watch and just like great players, he made things happen. He made the ball swerve away from Joe Root and the ball landed an inch or two away from where Root thought it would. To dismiss Jennings, he made the ball dip and that foxed a well-set batsman, for he thought that it had landed a lot closer. Extra bounce then accounted for Jonny Bairstow's dismissal. The yardsticks to judge a spinner are drift, dip, turn and bounce. Ashwin displayed all of them in abundance yesterday. He is this team's most valuable player and his form is directly proportional to how the team fares.


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