His century coupled with skipper Kohli’s resolute effort leaves England staring at a daunting target; home bowlers strike to further add to the misery
There is a touch of drama in whatever R. Ashwin does. You can never tell his mind.
On 99, Ashwin needed just a single for his fifth Test hundred. What does he do? He jumps out to off-spinner Moeen Ali’s flighted delivery outside off, has a big swipe but the top-edge travels over the slip to the fence.
Soon he throws up his arms in triumph and relief. The crowd goes berserk. The home boy has done it!
Earlier in the thrill-a-minute over, he slog-swept a flighted delivery from Moeen past the ropes, and drove to long-off for a brace. Then arrived his three-figure mark.
And, India, riding on Ashwin’s 106 and skipper Virat Kohli’s 62, set England a daunting target of 482 on the third day of the second Test at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday.
By stumps, England was staring down the barrel at 53 for three. Dom Sibley was trapped leg-before by an Axar Patel arm-ball, Rory Burns was held in the slips off Ashwin and night-watchman Jack Leach was prised out by Axar.
The day belonged to Ashwin. On a pitch where the ball turned and bounced, he batted with refreshing freedom.
He has opened up his stance a tad but is side-on by the time the bowler releases. His back-swing is measured and, although he is not the quickest on his feet, went forward or played back with a degree of assurance.
After his match-saving innings in Sydney, Ashwin has rediscovered his batting mojo following a two-year lull. This was an innings of bold strokeplay.
He added 96 in 29.3 overs with Kohli for the seventh wicket to quell an English resurgence.
Left-arm spinner Jack Leach’s good length ball was carved past point for four. Ashwin employed the slog-sweep, the pull and the cut for the bulk of his runs.
And when Broad erred in line, he was clipped. Ashwin’s footwork is limited, but timing sweet.
Fortune favours the brave and Ashwin was let off at 28 [by Ben Stokes at in the slips off Stuart Broad] and on 56 [a difficult chance to ’keeper Ben Foakes standing up to Broad].
Good in parts, Moeen sent back a well-set Kohli with a good length delivery that spun and fatally struck the India captain on his back-leg and consumed Ajinkya Rahane with a flighted ball which spun, bounced and took the inside edge.
Kohli’s weight distribution at the crease is the essence of his batsmanship. And it is his footwork — he goes fully forward or travels right back — that is the enabler.
His still head in offence or defence is further proof of his balance. And his high left elbow comes into view when he drives down the ground or through covers.
Kohli is a good batsman on turning pitches because he can play off the backfoot; he waits for the ball to turn and picks runs through or behind point or punches through covers.
He has a back-and-across shuffle, covers the off-stump, opens up the off-side field. Kohli cut and whipped; he has strong wrists. Kept the good deliveries out and put away the loose ones.
England will need its batsmen to take the cue. Easier said than done.