Going into this Border-Gavaskar series all the talk was about how Indian spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were going to lead the Australian batsmen on a merry dance as they make the ball turn and bounce all around them. So far that has not been the case. In fact, it has been the unheralded Australian duo of Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe who have caused headaches for India’s batting line-up.
In Pune it was left-armer O’Keefe who tore apart the Indians with 12 wickets for the match, and in the first innings in Bangalore, Lyon used spin and prodigious bounce to take 8/50 and dismantle India for 189. Jadeja did manage to fight back for India claiming 6/63 despite being drastically under bowled by Virat Kohli in Australia’s first innings.
In three bowling innings this series, Ashwin has managed to take only nine wickets at an average of 29.55 from 111.5 overs. That means Ashwin is only taking a wicket every 12.2 overs. His off-spinning counterpart for Australia has taken 13 wickets from 75.1 overs at a very impressive average of 14.84.
These stats are surprising considering Ashwin is currently the top ranked bowler in Test cricket and has had a wonderful home season to date, recently becoming the fastest bowler to 250 Test wickets. Lyon himself is no mug, having taken over 200 Test wickets himself, but no one would have expected him to upstage Ashwin on his home turf.
In Pune, Ashwin and Jadeja both failed to read the pitch as well as the Australians and bowled very poorly, especially early on day one and throughout Australia’s first innings. Ashwin in particular appeared to just be floating the ball on a length and expecting wickets to fall. This could have been a result of complacency, assuming that he merely had to get the ball to the other end to expose Australia’s weakness against spin, or it could be due to fatigue after a long season of being Kohli’s go-to bowler.
Regardless of the reason, Ashwin has been mediocre so far in the series and he continued to bowl the wrong length and pace, as well as being just as uncharacteristically inaccurate in Bengaluru as he had been in Pune. The Tamil Nadu off-spinner appeared to be bowling fuller and slower, as he should have done in Pune, when the Bengaluru pitch called for hard and fast spun deliveries pitched into the wicket to threaten the batsmen.
Lyon managed to find the method that worked best in Bengaluru as his hard spun deliveries unsettled India’s batsman throughout his career-best spell. The often unfairly maligned Australian bowls with a much more side-on action than Ashwin which allows him to pivot over his front foot and drive his right hip through his action. This allows him to impart greater energy and body into the ball. By putting so much body into each delivery Lyon gets a lot of revolutions on the ball, and particularly a lot of overspin, which means he can extract bounce from any surface. On a surface offering plenty of variable bounce and turn to spin bowlers like the one at the M Chinaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, it makes him more than a handful for batsmen.
Ashwin, on the other hand, has a more unconventional action for an off spin bowler, delivering the ball with a front on action. This means he uses a lot more shoulder in his deliveries, as well as relying a bit more on strong fingers and some wrist than Lyon would.
Early on day three, Jadeja seemed to have learnt the lessons of Pune and his style of quicker, flatter spin bowling was effective on a surface with plenty of variable bounce from cracks and out of the rough. Jadeja’s spell, along with the fight shown by KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane has been crucial in keeping India in the contest and in the series at stumps on day three.
With a lead of 126 at the end of third day's play, Ashwin will be hoping his batsman can increase that to around 250, and to do that they will require a contribution from the world’s top ranked Test all-rounder as well. Unfortunately Ashwin’s poor form with the ball seems to have spread to his usually reliable batting, although he is not alone in struggling to score runs in this series.
Usually when Ashwin bats well, or bowls well, he goes on to excel in the other discipline as well. Indian fans will be hoping their number one bowler can contribute some runs and help build India’s lead in this Test, but regardless of what total they set Australia it will be Ashwin’s bowling in the final innings of this match that will go a long way to determining the outcome of this Test, and to which country the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be heading.
Ashwin has not risen to his lofty heights through luck, he has shown immense skill and determination, particularly in home conditions, and he will need to call on every ounce of it to lead India to victory in Bangalore. The wily off-spinner is a very proud and confident man who sets very high standards, and he will be hurting knowing that he has been out-bowled by Nathan Lyon.
So far India’s best bowler has been underwhelming, but the fourth innings in Bangalore will be his chance to redeem himself and once again bowl his country to victory. Kohli and India will be hoping their main man can deliver the goods before the series is gone.
Updated Date: Mar 07, 2017 10:02 AM