Theunis De Bruyn was the man on strike. The ball from the hand of the off-spinner pitched outside off stump, turned viciously, and castled the right-hander. The batsman appeared clueless as his stumps were shattered. And with that dismissal, Ravi Ashwin picked up his 350th wicket in Test cricket, and became the joint fastest bowler ever to do so (along with the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan).
In a career that has spanned a decade, Ashwin has carved a niche for himself as India’s biggest match winner with the ball, especially at home. He is already the 4th highest wicket-taker for India in Tests, and has a stunning 27 five-wicket hauls to his name. Ashwin is a colossus in his own right, and has etched his name in the pantheon of greats to have worn the whites for India.
As the star off-spinner turns 34 today, let us have a look at 5 occasions when Ashwin spun a web around the opposition batsmen.
5. 7/145 vs South Africa, 2019
The touring South African side was tamed by Ashwin’s mastery with the ball at Visakhapatnam in the year 2019. After India batted first and posted a commanding 502/7 on the board, Ashwin took over with the red cherry in hand.
The right arm off-spinner was into the ‘thick of things’ as early as the 8th over of the South African innings. Ashwin gave the ball loop, the ball drifted, and spun sharply to beat Aiden Markram’s defense to crash onto the stumps. He then accounted for the wicket of De Bruyn as the batsman edged the ball into the waiting hands of the keeper.
The Tamil Nadu spinner also accounted for the wickets of Faf du Plessis and Quinton De Kock. While Du Plessis was pouched by Pujara at leg slip, the latter was cleaned up ‘through the gate’. Ravi Ashwin’s fifth wicket was another peach of a delivery that outfoxed Vernon Philander. The ball took the inside edge of the willow and all that Philander could hear was the sound of timber.
He then scalped Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada to finish with figures of 7/145. His stupendous performance with the ball, coupled with an effervescent performance by Rohit Sharma with the bat allowed India to trounce the visitors by 203 runs.
4. 7/103 vs Australia, 2013
We travel 7 years back in time to the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai to relive this classic. It was the ground that Ashwin knew like the back of his palm, and bamboozled the Aussie batsmen with guile and magic.
Ashwin’s first wicket was an off spinner’s delight. He tossed the ball, inviting the batsman to step out and Ed Cowan was fooled by the bait. The left-hander came down the track, was beaten by the spin and extra bounce, and MS Dhoni completed the formalities with his lightning quick hands behind the stumps.
Ravi Ashwin accounted for the wicket of the late Phil Hughes when the batsman dragged the ball back onto his stumps. The wily spinner then caught both Shane Watson and David Warner plumb in front of the stumps in quick succession.
Ashwin’s fifth wicket of the innings was that of Matthew Wade. The ball was pitched on middle stump and went on with the arm. Wade was late to get his bat down in time and was caught in front of the stumps.
The off spinner also accounted for the well set Moises Henriques and Nathan Lyon to finish with astounding figures of 7/103. Ashwin was the wrecker in chief in the second innings too, picking up 5 wickets to finish with a match haul of 12 wickets.
3. 7/83 vs West Indies, 2016
In July 2016, the West Indian batsmen were all at sea as they succumbed to another masterful display of spin bowling by India’s talisman. On a track that was starting to deteriorate and beginning to help the spinners, Ravi Ashwin took full advantage and sliced through the West Indian batting line up.
The first of his scalps was Rajendra Chandrika. To a ball that was tossed up, Chandrika tried to flick it through mid wicket, but the ball took the inside edge and Saha pouched the offering. Blackwood was the next man to depart. Ashwin had a packed leg side field, with a short leg, a leg slip and a short mid wicket in place for Blackwood. To a ball that had a bit of loop and pitched on middle stump, the right hander tried to force the ball into the leg side, but hit it in the air in an uppish manner, and skipper Virat Kohli completed an incredible catch, diving to his left.
Ashwin also accounted for the wickets of Marlon Samuels and Roston Chase to leave the West Indies in doldrums. The Indian spinner’s fifth wicket was a classic that will be savoured. To a ball that was tossed up, Jason Holder went for the big expansive drive, but the ball spun in sharply and the stumps were dislodged. Ashwin had beaten Holder in the air. It was a dismissal that any off spinner would be proud of. Ashwin also accounted for Devendra Bishoo and Shannon Gabriel to finish with a seven wicket haul.
2. 7/66 vs South Africa, 2015
Ravi Ashwin once again proved that he is the monarch in favourable home conditions. The off-spinner had already picked up a fifer in the first innings to help India skittle the visitors out for just 79 in the first essay, and in the second innings too, he ran through their fragile batting line up.
The pair of Dean Elgar and Stainn Van Zyl tried to play the ‘waiting’ game with Ashwin, but the latter’s patience ran out. He tried to drive Ashwin through the off side, but could not get the elevation that he hoped for. He holed out to Rohit Sharma at short cover to give Ashwin his first wicket of the second innings. The next scalp for Ashwin was Elgar. To a ball that went on with the arm, Elgar misread it completely, and was struck dead in front of the stumps.
But then, the wicket that Ashwin would savor the most is that of the legendary AB De Villiers. It is not easy to flummox a batsman of the quality of De Villiers, but Ashwin did exactly that. He bowled the carrom ball to perfection, De Villiers did not pick it, and was out leg before wicket. The South African legend looked stunned. It was an absolute peach of a delivery.
Duminy then shouldered arms to a delivery that came in with the arm and was another LBW victim of the Indian spinner. Ashwin then scalped Dane Vilas to pick up his second fifer of the match. The ball pitched on middle stump, bounced a little more than the batsman expected, took a ‘feather’ off his glove and Saha completed the formalities.
He ran through the tail, picking up the wickets of Rabada and Morne Morkel to pick up 7 wickets in the innings. His superlative performances with the ball in hand allowed India to beat South Africa by 124 runs.
1. 7/59 vs New Zealand, 2016
In the 2nd innings, New Zealand were set a daunting target of 475 runs to pull off an improbable victory on a track that was offering a lot of help for the spinners. And, Ravi Ashwin took full advantage of it, to record his best figures in Test cricket for India.
His first wicket was that of the Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson. To a ball that pitched outside off stump and turned sharply, Williamson tried to play across the line, but failed to get bat on ball. It was a pretty straight forward decision for the umpire, as the Kiwi stalwart was caught in front of the stumps. Ashwin then scalped Ross Taylor with a ball that was slower through the air. Taylor went for the sweep shot, but missed the line of the delivery, and the ball crashed onto his stumps.
The next man to succumb to Ashwin’s guile was Luke Ronchi. To a ball that was full, Ronchi went onto the back foot and paid the price. The ball turned in, and took out his off stump. Ashwin then went through the defence of Mitchell Santner and Jeetan Patel to leave New Zealand reeling.
Matt Henry tried to be aggressive and gave Ashwin the charge. But the latter was smarter, and tossed the ball up to the batsman. Henry failed in his attempt to clear the fielder, and Mohammed Shami completed an easy catch at mid off. Ashwin’s final scalp was that of Trent Boult. Boult too gave Ashwin the charge, but hit the ball straight back to the bowler. Ashwin gleefully accepted the offering, to finish with stupendous figures of 7/59.
Note: All stats have been taken from Howstat cricket and Cricinfo and have been updated as on 16th September 2020.
Source: The source of this content is our cricket news platform Crictracker.
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