India vs South Africa 1st Test: Ravichandran Ashwin all set to equal Muttiah Muralitharan’s world record
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin continued his impressive form in the first Test against South Africa at Visakhapatnam. He claimed the last two wickets to fall in Proteas’ first innings on Day 4, and finished with excellent figures of 7 for 145. South Africa extended their innings from the overnight score of 385 for 8 to 431 to keep India’s lead down to a reasonable 71. Senuran Muthusamy was the key contributor, remaining unbeaten on 33.
With the seven-for, Ashwin is now one wicket away from equalling Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan’s world record of becoming the fastest bowler to take 350 Test wickets. Murali achieved the feat in his 66th Test against Bangladesh back in 2001. Ashwin too is playing in his 66th match in the longest format.
With just one wicket to get, he is likely to achieve the landmark in all probability. This match has already seen Ravindra Jadeja becoming the fastest left-arm bowler to reach 200 Test wickets.
Among Indian bowlers, the record for the fastest to reach 350 wickets is currently held by former skipper and leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who achieved the feat in 77 Test matches.
The most incredible aspect of Ashwin’s performance is that this is his first Test match in nearly nine months. He last turned out in the Indian whites against Australia at Adelaide in December last year did not feature in the playing eleven in the two Tests in West Indies.
Asked about his absence from the playing field in international cricket, Ashwin told the media on Friday,
"To stay away from cricket itself was very tough for me. In order to substitute, I played whatever games I got. I tried and made opportunity for myself to go and play some county cricket. I tried and played the TNPL as much as I could, played some league cricket in Chennai."
He further went on to add,
“It was very important to tick those numbers off because that is essentially where I came from. Going back and playing there is probably the best thing that could have happened.”
India find themselves in the ascendancy at Visakhapatnam, despite centuries from Dean Elgar (160) and Quinton de Kock (111). Batting first, India posted an impressive 502 for 7 on the board, courtesy openers Mayank Agarwal (215) and Rohit Sharma (176), who added 317 for the first wicket. The hosts are swelling the lead in the second innings as well, with Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara having hit half-centuries in the post-lunch session on Day 4.