Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Ashwin basks after helping India contain S. Africa on Day 1

Ashwin basks after helping India contain S. Africa on Day 1 Ashwin basks after helping India contain S. Africa on Day 1
Shannon Reynolds | 14 January, 2018, 00:44

With turn from day one, this usually spin-free surface has done the one thing captain Faf du Plessis did not want and has already brought India's spinner R Ashwin into the game.

Initial signs were that the pitch at Centurion wouldn't be as hard to bat on as the seam-friendly track in Cape Town where South Africa's 286 in the first innings was the highest total of the match. Elgar struggled throughout his innings, lacking rhythm and timing, but was just starting to look settled when one from Ashwin, turned and bounced deceiving the left-hander who was caught between wanting drive and defend, ultimately did neither providing Murali Vijay with a simple catch at silly point after making 31.

For large parts of Saturday (January 13), it looked like South Africa would walk in to stumps with plenty of smiles and wickets intact. "This pitch will again test us to play our best cricket and that is something we are looking forward to". "Two days from the game it looked like we are going to play an all-seam attack", Ashwin said. It will take a big improvement from their fast bowlers if that is the case.

Patel ended Markram's innings when he caught him behind off Ashwin - but then dropped Amla on 30 down the leg side off Ishant, the batsman's second lifeline after Pandya had shelled a tough chance at short mid-wicket when he had 14. Their best result came during the 2010-11 series, which India drew 1-1. Their batsmen can have no excuse here other than scoreboard pressure.

If pacers take upper hand in series, so be it, says Faf
India have played only once at this venue and they were hammered out of sight after having been shot out for 136 and 459. As alluring as the ambience can get, not many teams that have visited here have gone back with fond memories.

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"Ashwin is a world class bowler". What India got was an economy rate of 4.18 from Shami and 3.16 from Bumrah despite a late slowdown. And the most important thing is that we don't give up after being put under pressure.

That piece of good fortune spurred the home side on and they managed another 36 runs in the next seven overs up to the lunch break, the shackles seemingly broken. Veteran Steyn injured his left heel midway through the match and has been sidelined for four to six weeks.

Pandya and Ashwin were batting at No. 7 and 8 respectively, which suggests India have enough depth in their batting order - if their top-order players can get themselves through the new ball. It was Ishant and Pandya, who showed more Test-match discipline than India's two strike forces, who kept South Africa's run rate from getting out of hand. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami bowled their "hearts out", in the words of their captain Virat Kohli, to bundle out South Africa twice-before they were let down by the batsmen.

But then that came later. It shouldn't always take pieces of magic, though. They have stuck to their natural game, punishing bad deliveries and not flirting much with the wide balls outside off.

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