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  5. AUS vs IND, 1st Test | R Ashwin defies 'spin' odds to weave his best performance in Australia

AUS vs IND, 1st Test | R Ashwin defies 'spin' odds to weave his best performance in Australia

Ashwin finished with 4 for 55, the best figures for any visiting spinner in a day-night Test in Australia and his personal best Down Under surpassing his 4/105 at the SCG in 2015.

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Updated on: December 18, 2020 19:55 IST
India's Ravichandran Ashwin, left, celebrates taking the
Image Source : AP

India's Ravichandran Ashwin, left, celebrates taking the wicket of Australia's Steve Smith for 1 run on the second day of their cricket test match at the Adelaide Oval in Adelaide, Australia, Friday, Dec. 18

Visiting spinners have seldom come off with flying colours with the pink ball on Australian soil. Ahead of the Border-Gavaskar series opener on Thursday, visiting spinners have picked a combined 13 wickets in 23 innings at an average of 95.38 and strike rate of 150.6. In Adelaide, the corresponding numbers are six wickets in 14 innings at an average of 119.83 and wicket every 167 deliveries. The numbers lead to a chatter ahead of the opener at the Adelaide Oval that India might head with a four-pace attack. 48 hours later, Ravichandran Ashwin, who however managed to find a spot in the playing XI as the lone spinner, defied odds to weave his best performance in Australia in what is his fourth visit Down Under. 

15 wickets fell on day 2 of the first Test - five for India across two innings and all 10 for Australia -  where India responded with a clinical bowling performance after a poor day with the willow. Mohammed Shami, although wicketless, looked the most threatening of the Indian attack with his fullish deliveries. Jasprit Bumrah got the first breakthrough, dismissing both the openers and later it was all Ashwin, who made the most out of the pressure created by the pace combination to castle down Australia's middle-order. 

Bumrah's wicket off his second spell brought Australia's most threatening batting combination to the crease - Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. And the pair survived initial scares, thanks to India's poor fielding efforts. Labuschagne himself was gifted three opportunities while India failed to run out Smith. But Ashwin, in his first over in the series, provided India with the most crucial wicket in the first innings, dismissing Smith in a manner reminiscent of his dismissal in Dharamsala in 2017. In his second ball to the No.1 ranked Test batsman, Ashwin spun the ball in towards the leg side and Smith stepped out to defend it. Ashwin then tricked him with a straighter delivery on length and outside of the off stump. Smith was caught off guard, and immediately looked to defend the ball but the ball took a thick outside edge and landed safely into the hands of Ajinkya Rahane at first slip. 

Ashwin then shifted focus on the left-handed Travis Head with a drifter on the middle from around the stump that straightened up, outsmarting the batsman who looked to push it through the on side. The ball took the leading edge and returned back to Ashwin for a simple catch. Ashwin quickly added a third wicket to his name after he removed debutant Cameron Green who failed to aptly execute the pull shot despite looking promising with his footwork. 

Ashwin returned for his second spell in the 60th over and removed his Australian counterpart, Nathan Lyon, for his fourth wicket of the day. He eventually finished with 4 for 55, the best figures for any visiting spinner in a day-night Test in Australia and his personal best Down Under surpassing his 4/105 at the SCG in 2015. 

What adds credit to Ashwin's performance is that Lyon finished with 1 for 68 in the first innings of the pink-ball game. Lyon is the only spinner to have deciphered this code, averaging 25.96 in all those seven games with a decent strike rate of 55.4. But the difference in their impact in Adelaide lied in how they attacked the batters- although both kept 65 per cent of their deliveries on good length, Lyon bowled wide of the crease and angled the ball in from far outside the off stump and Ashwin bowled close from the stumps and targetted the off. 

Ashwin also tried to mix up his deliveries, varying mostly in speed - there were flighted deliveries, shorter ones and then drifters as well. 

"For me... it is not so much about the trajectory. It is about trying and changing it up and making it difficult for the batsman to defend and score at the same time," he said in the post-match conference. 

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