Hyderabad: Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are India’s stormtroopers at home, tossing over opponents like pioneer dolls and their numbers validate their supremacy too.
They started the Hyderabad Test against England with a combined tally of 500 wickets, one behind Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
Now, they stand on top of the Indian chart with 511 wickets and certainly in the company of all-timers such as Broad-Anderson (1039), Warne-McGrath (1001), Murali-Vaas (895) or Ambrose-Walsh (762).
Despite that lofty achievement and a fairly decent haul, Ashwin and Jadeja might not look back at the first Test against England with whole lot of fondness after visitors scored 420 in second innings at four plus runs per over.
Yes, their six-wicket haul (6/156) in the first innings had played a significant part in India bundling out England for 246.
Hence, it was natural for one to expect Ash-Jaddu to knock the stuffing out of England in their second innings, particularly after having established a huge 190-run lead.
At least, that’s the set pattern over the better part of the last decade in home Tests. But there was a turn in the script here at the RGI Stadium.
Pope’s 196 takes Eng to 420; Ind needs 231 to win Hyderabad Test
England batters under Ollie Pope tightened their swash in the second innings with a barrage of sweeps and reverse sweeps from the stump line to keep the Indian duo frustrated for an extended period.
There were glimpses of their magic such as Jadeja uprooting Jonny Bairstow’s stumps with a straight one or Ashwin castling Ben Stokes with a sharply spun delivery.
But once Pope and England found their fight, the Indians forgot their own on a pitch that offered turn albeit the slower version. It wasn’t the crumbling minefield from Rajkot a couple of years back.
In fact, head coach Rahul Dravid had offered a subtle caution.
“It (The pitch) looks good one from what I’ve seen. It may spin a little bit. But how quickly and how fast, I am not sure,” Dravid had said in a media interaction a few days back here.
It panned out precisely that way as both Ashwin and Jadeja struggled to make an impact. Once Pope and even tailenders took the attack to them, they seemed a bit flustered.
It was not a situation they have been used to and they could not envisage a Plan B either. The reprieve that Pope received on 110 on Saturday evening off Jadeja too might just have added to the whole grimness of this passage.
India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey offered an explanation.
“There is some turn but it is not the usual turn you see in the Indian sub-continental wickets, the sharp turn when the game progresses. There is a little turn but not as challenging,” Mhambrey noted.
But then one will expect players in the calibre of Ashwin and Jadeja to overcome such obstacles, but on this day, there was nothing apart from the long wait for batters to commit a mistake.
They gave away 257 runs together for five wickets in return in England’s second dig. It can also be argued that the rather defensive field setting of Indians too did not help their cause.
The home side opted to spread the field last evening when more close-in fielders should have piled more pressure on the visiting batters, and it helped England to enhance their lead to 230 in a rather risk-free manner.
On the contrary, England set a marker in field placement against Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill in India’s second innings on Sunday.
England duly placed fielders at short leg and slip when the spinners were on the bowl, making those forward prods for singles a risky proposition.
Perhaps, we will see better tactics in the second Test at Visakhapatnam and build on optimism that the Hyderabad passivity was an aberration.