Opinion: Ashwin may have saved his Test spot by taking the last Australian wicket at Adelaide
Coming into the fifth day of the Adelaide Test with 219 runs ahead and just six Australian wickets left, India were the favourites to win the match. And on a fifth day pitch with wear and tear, India’s leading spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was expected to be Virat Kohli’s go-to man.
And Kohli did go to his main man and bowled him from one end for majority of the day. He was getting some turn and beat the bat occasionally, but the Australian batsmen were largely untroubled.
The Indian pacers, especially Bumrah and Shami looked much more threatening and seemed more likely to take wickets, which they did. The Australians kept fighting and seemed to have a lot of self-belief. There were no two wickets that went quickly in succession, and every batsman who came to the crease supported the batsman out there before him.
The lower order batsmen from numbers 8 to 11 batted with a lot of grit and showed the kind of application that should serve as an example to not only their Indian counterparts in the Indian side who batted rather recklessly in the second innings but also to their own top order batsmen.
Kohli kept on persisting with Ashwin, and rightly so. He had to keep the faith in his lead spinner. He had seen Nathan Lyon taking six wickets in India’s second innings and knew Ashwin had it in him to do the same and win India the game. It was refreshing to see Kohli reposing that much faith in Ashwin when he could have easily taken him out of the attack, especially in the post-lunch session when the match started getting tight.
When Australia’s number 11 Josh Hazlewood joined Nathan Lyon at the crease, Australia still required 64 runs. But the pair started whittling down the target and India failed to get the wicket till the last over of an extended post-lunch session. That is when Ashwin lured Hazlewood into a drive and the edge was taken beautifully by KL Rahul.
That was Ashwin’s only wicket on the fifth day when he was expected to take some more. But this fifth-day pitch had not deteriorated as much as was expected. So, it will be a tad unfair to pillory Ashwin for a lack of wickets.
He kept the Australian batsmen honest and took the most important wicket of the day to gift India a rare overseas victory down under. One gets a feeling that had India lost the match with Ashwin going wicket-less on the fifth day, he would have certainly found himself out of the side for the rest of the series.