Ashwin picked up another five-for.
ndian team have the command in the second Test against Sri Lanka after day 3, thanks to a brilliant bowling performance by Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Even though the hosts have shown a good fight in the second innings, Ravi Ashwin has ensured that they still stay ahead of them after bowling them out on 183 in the first innings.
On Friday, R Ashwin achieved another milestone as he became 4th fastest to get 2000 runs and 200 wickets, behind Ian Botham (42 Tests), and Imran Khan and Kapil Dev (50 Tests each). The previous record was accompanied by another one on Saturday (August 5), as he eased past Harbhajan Singh, with his 26th five-wicket haul that has put him at No. 2 in the list of Indians with five-fors in Tests, only behind Anil Kumble (35 in 132 Tests).
“It had a bit of venom in the morning, the first session. As the ball got older and we bowled the second time around, it is kind of fizzling out and the edges aren’t carrying that much to the fielders,” Ashwin agreed. “We beat the bat a lot. I thought Mendis batted beautifully. He put Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) off his length very quickly, credit to him.
I think this wicket will get slower and slower. It is not going to be easy work tomorrow for sure. We will have to be really disciplined. We gave a few runs more than ideally, we should have given today. Tomorrow, we can probably try and squeeze them out and try and nip a few wickets up early. It is going to be very, very important. Mind you, it is not going to be easy because it is slowing down at a very, very quick pace. Edges aren’t carrying. That means we will have to stick our guns out and try to prise a few wickets out. The second new ball, therefore, becomes important. They got a great partnership but the guys coming in will have to start from scratch. There is going to be an equal challenge on both sides.”
Ashwin was asked about the difference in the two starkly contrasting halves of the day. “I just think Test teams are allowed to bat well in a few sessions,” he countered. “They did bat well. We beat the bat pretty often even in the sessions we didn’t get wickets. Karunaratne really complemented Mendis, he defended beautifully, and Mendis played a few extra shots that Karunaratne obviously didn’t play. It came off for them. Credit to them, they batted really, really well. I don’t think we did too much wrong. We tried reverse-swing, we bowled cutters in the end. We beat the bat a few times more than we should have for the nicks we got. Hopefully, we will try and nick them off tomorrow.”
Having built up a reputation as a wonderful student of the game, Ashwin tried different things, like he usually does and especially so when the conditions pose a massive challenge. “I was just looking at what sort of lines I needed to bowl because there isn’t much within the stumps for the ball to do. I can’t really come straight because it is not doing a lot from the straight. It is pretty wide that, the lines I need to be bowling, both for the left-hander and the right-hander. Also, the breeze was taking the ball away from you as you came closer to the stumps. There is some help if you go wider for the right-handers. For left-handers, obviously, the ball goes even further away, so it enabled to get beaten more often than not. They batted inside the line a lot when they defended, and when they attacked they were not in two minds. They definitely attacked really well.”
Sometimes on a turning track, the big challenge is to control the amount of turn – make the ball turn less if you like. “You can change the angles, which I tried from over the stumps. It’s pretty difficult because, from the straight, there is not a lot happening. It is only a kind of a visual mirage that you’re trying to create, try and turn the ball out from the left-hander and get him miss one that’s coming straight. Obviously, that didn’t happen. With the technology improving more and more, the batsmen are pretty adept at covering their stumps and then probably playing inside the line for ones that are turning away. Like I said, you do try everything in the middle, some day it works, some days it doesn’t.
Changing lengths and lines are both inter-related because if you have to go wider, you’ll have to push the ball a little further for it to be a good length and all that. We did try and a lot of things in the middle today, it was not like a lack of intensity or anything. It was just that a couple of good batsmen batted beautifully.”
Ashwin spoke of the factors that go into enforcing the follow-on. “More often than not, we’ve based it on how fresh or tired the bowlers are. We did get them all out under two sessions, we thought it is the right time to enforce the follow-on,” he reasoned. “We also felt that the wicket will keep on slowing down. It won’t be easy work as the game gets deeper into the fourth or fifth day. You might see balls spitting away, that’s because of spots in front of the wicket, but it’s not really that vicious for the ball to take an edge and go to the slip fielders. If you play with soft hands, it’s very difficult to get them out.”