Friday, February 24, 2017

1st Test: When Indian spinners weren"t constant grinners against Australia

Ravichandran Ashwin

Pune: On Day One of a Test match, if a side is 256 for 9 at stumps after electing to bat first, one would consider it to be a bowlers’ day. That wasn’t quite the case at the MCA stadium here on a dry turner though, especially considering the fact that the Australians were 205 for 9 at one stage.

Aussies’ creditable show
The chief architects of the Australian side’s decent score in those conditions were Matt Renshaw and Mitchell Starc. Their contrasting half centuries forced the Indian batting coach Sanjay Bangar to say that the visitors were in a “good position” at stumps.

Renshaw played a typical opener’s knock, buckling down, defending well, scoring on every opportunity, and trying to wear down the opposition bowlers in general. His knock was divided into two parts; the first was filled with strong defence and solid technique, before he retired ill under strange circumstances. The second was a bit more free-scoring, especially when left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja was in operation.

Indian bowler R Ashwin celebrates with teammates the wicket of Australian batsman Steve Smith. Pic/PTI

‘Hard to attack Ashwin’
“I think it helps having the ball turn into you. It’s quite hard to attack Ashwin when he gets some to turn big past the bat and some to go straight on. As a left hander, you naturally want the ball coming back to you. If there’s an opportunity to try and hit a six you take it,” Renshaw said. “He started really well, applied himself. He showed a lot of character,” Bangar said while praising Renshaw’s effort. If Renshaw’s resilience came in as a bit of surprise for the hosts—the opener is playing in India for the first time—there was no such case as far as Starc’s style of batting is concerned. He gave an early indication of what he intended to do when he tried to smack Ashwin against the turn over mid-on.

But what really hurt India was that the tall left-hander was able to connect most of his strokes, against spinners and pacers as well. His 51-run unbroken stand with Josh Hazlewood, in which the latter’s contribution is just a single run, has taken Australia from a potentially below par score to a respectable one.

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