India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin believes Australian batsmen Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne dominated him in the third Test in Sydney, as the pitch had lesser pace and bounce compared to the first two Test venues.
Ashwin had the wood over both Smith and Labuschagne coming into the Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), having dismissed the duo on two occasions each in the series.
However, the 34-year-old reckons the SCG pitch played a vital role in helping both batsmen tackle him better.
Both Smith and Labuschagne used their feet well against Ravichandran Ashwin, making sure the off-spinner's 'leg-side trap' didn't work this time around. They didn't let Ashwin settle into a rhythm and dictate terms to them.
In a video-conference after the end of the day's play, Ravichandran Ashwin explained how the two Australian batsmen managed to put pressure on him.
"You expect quality players to come out with different plans. For starters, I would like to say the wicket has had much lesser bounce and much lesser pace than MCG and Adelaide, and Sydney has been tended to be that way over the years. So this was slower than a regular Sydney pitch, maybe because of the amount of Sun it received heading into the game," Ravichandran Ashwin said.
In the second innings, I put Smith and Labuschagne under much more pressure: Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin thinks Smith and Labuschagne's intention to play with more freedom also worked in their favor.
However, Ashwin claimed that he was able to put some pressure on them in the second innings, despite the duo bringing up yet another century-stand.
"There was a clear strategy from Smith and Marnus to not defend much and push at balls. A combination of the pitch and their strategy to push at balls that they haven't really covered have also really worked for them," Ravichandran Ashwin said.
"But I definitely thought in the second innings I put them through much more pressure than what it was in the first innings because the wicket was also a touch better than what it was in the first innings," he further added.
Team India ended day four on 98-2 and face a monumental task of chasing down 309 runs on the final day.
Injuries to both Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja mean that the visitors are already depleted in their batting department.
The onus will be on Cheteshwar Pujara and stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane to see India through. The visitors will have to bat out of their skin to avoid defeat in the SCG Test.