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ASHWIN GETS 500 AS INDIA BATTLE FOR CONTROL IN THE THIRD TEST AGAINST ENGLAND

A rare feat was achieved in the ongoing third Test of the IndiaEngland series. Ravi Ashwin picked up his much anticipated 500th Test wicket, a milestone achieved by just 8 bowlers before him! As he got Zack Crawley caught at short fine leg of a top edge, there were no wild celebrations and no big gestures. From anyone not aware, it would look like usual celebrations at the fall of a wicket. Such is the simplicity of the man that has defined his career and who is now the second fastest to reach the tally in just 98 Tests, only the second Indian after Anil Kumble.

During the post-match interview, Ashwin dedicated his achievement to his father. Ashwin said, “I would like to dedicate this to my father, he’s responsible for everything I’ve done in my life. I think his health has gone for a toss because he’s watched games of mine on TV and been a constant support for me.” But he never got carried away by his emotions and just moments later said, “500 wickets done and dusted now, and we’ve got a game hanging in the balance.”

Indeed, if India needs to win the third Test, they need Ashwin at the top of his game as the ‘Bazzball’ has turned this series into a dog fight, with no side ready to give up easily. India though will rue the fact that their batters did get out to soft dismissals in the first innings. After winning the toss on a flat track, Rohit Sharma had no hesitation to bat first. But India faced early adversity as 3 wickets fell in quick succession with the score at 33.

With 2 debutants in the side, Sarfaraz Khan and Dhruv Jurel, India sent in Ashwin’s bowling buddyRavi Jadeja at number 5 to absorb pressure. His partnership with Rohit steadied the Indian innings and both of them made sure that no further wickets were lost till Tea interval. They accumulated an impressive 204 runs for the fourth wicket. This marked India’s first century stand of the series.

But just as the two were beginning to unfurl their full repertoire of strokes, Rohit departed for a wellmade century. This brought Sarfaraz Khan to the crease. There has been a lot of hype around him and his selection over the past couple of years. He has been scoring heavily in First Class cricket and averages over 100 in the last 2 seasons but has been unfortunate on many occasions to not be selected in the national team.

Whatever anxiety there may have been for him waiting for 4 hours before walking out to bat, didn’t show in his body language. He was calm at the crease and slowly started to find his aggression that he is known for in the domestic circuit. In a partnership of 77, Sarfaraz scored 62 off just 66 balls before being run out. But his captain and the crowd showed appreciation in the effort put in by the youngster in just his first knock at the international level.

Jadeja, meanwhile, was making a comeback from a hamstring injury and showcased mental clarity as he crafted a century, steering India into a commanding position at the end of day 1. However, his dismissal for 112, early on day 2 made the English bowlers confident of keeping the first innings score under 500, which at one point looked imminent. The other debutant, Dhruv Jurel, played his part in a finely constructed knock of 46 along with Ashwin who made 37.

England had a big total of 446 in front of them but started with 5 runs on board without a ball bowled due to penalty runs awarded with Ashwin running on the protected area of the pitch in the first innings. Ben Dukcett and Zack Crawley started a counterattack that left India stunned. Especially Duckett was severe on anything outside off and swept strongly to Ashwin.

He reached his century within the same session after Tea in just 88 balls which is the third fastest against India in the country. Duckett’s century, in partnerships with Crawley and later with Ollie Pope, placed England in a dominant position at the end of day 2. They trail India by 238 runs with 8 wickets remaining on a flat track.

With the series hanging in the balance, the drama in Rajkot sets the stage for an intriguing battle between two determined and resilient teams. Ashwin though will be at the centre of it all, if he manages to find his mojo, then England will surely be staring at a second defeat in three matches!

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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