CHENNAI: Ravichandran Ashwin first gave a lesson on how to bowl on a rank turner and then provided a batting master-class with a sparkling hundred on a deteriorating strip, putting India on the brink of a massive series-levelling victory against England on the third day of the second Test here on Monday.
Ashwin’s fifth Test hundred — a gutsy 106 off 148 balls along with Virat Kohli’s near flawless 62 off 149 balls got India to a more than decent 286 in 85.5 overs, leaving England with an improbable target of 482 runs on a dust bowl.
At stumps, England were already crumbling at 53 for 3 and it would take nothing short of a miracle for England to bat for two days and save the match. Even their resolute captain Joe Root and coach Chris Silverwood wouldn’t be optimistic on a track where exploding divots are making it extremely difficult to bat.
But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Just like facing a quality seam bowler on a green top is an art, one needs plenty of skills and mental fortitude to counter spinners on a dust bowl.
“I will sleep well through the night, that is all that I am thinking,” Ashwin, the star of the day, said after stumps. “I don’t know what the team is feeling like but I am sure they are thrilled.” Skipper Kohli and Ashwin showed the likes of Michael Vaughan that they have that in abundance as India batted nearly 182 overs across two innings on a track that many deemed as under-prepared after England failed to score even 150.
For Ashwin, it was the third time in his Test career when he notched up a five-for and a hundred along with it. Only England legend Ian Botham stands ahead of him with five such efforts in his career.
India’s batting exhibition in the second innings was a statement for all the Doubting Thomases on how to bat on a third-day track.
It only helped that Moeen Ali (32-7-98-4) and Jack Leach (33-6-100-4) were not half as good as Ashwin and Axar Patel were on the second day.
Both the Moeen and the Leach bowler were bowling their deliveries at an identical pace unlike Ashwin who varied the speed.
Also another marked difference between Ashwin’s deliveries was his pace through the air which was significantly more than Moeen’s.
If Rohit Sharma set it up with a classy Day 1 hundred, Ashwin and Kohli, in the next two days, didn’t take their feet off the pedal to put England in the tightest of corners.