England vs India 2018, First Test Day 1, SK Player of the Day: Ravichandran Ashwin for his brilliant spell
The opening day of the most anticipated Test series of the year saw some predictable plays and those were equally matched by events that were not believed to be conducive on the eve of the first day of Pataudi Trophy.
While everyone across both the camps was aware of, and acknowledged the prowess of the Indian fast bowlers and the threat posed by the varying trio of Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, it was Ravichandran Ashwin whose outstanding discipline with the ball sees him earn the SK Player of the Day for his spell of 27-7-60-4 that tilted the odds in the favours of the visitors at the end of the play of a well fought day of Test cricket.
After Ishant and Umesh began the day in their respective incisive and erratic styles, Ashwin was brought on early by captain Virat Kohli as an aggressive move against the two left-handed openers of the English line-up. After starting rather indifferently and being rendered ineffective because of his fuller lengths, Ashwin found rhythm and with some useful grip from the pitch.
Before the match, there were doubts regarding Ashwin's selection, many reckoned the X-factor of Kuldeep Yadav be given a nod ahead of him, or the unerring accuracy of Ravindra Jadeja coupled with his handy batting and electric fielding, but India's management decided to go with their most prolific bowler in this decade and the rewards were reaped.
In only his second over, Ashwin knocked over one of the most celebrated English cricketers of all time, beating Alastair Cook in a classical fashion as he drifted the ball into his pads only for the cherry to spin away at the last moment teasing the outside edge of the bat for proximity and crashing into the stumps.
After some excellent fielding by the skipper and the hustle of Umesh brought about panic in the English dressing room and the star of the summer Jos Buttler to the crease, Ashwin set to work again, dismissing the much-hyped aggressor for a two-ball duck.
While his variations had achieved mixed results all day long, it was on this occasion that it all came along for him as Buttler was flummoxed by a ball that turned less and held its line more to crash into his pads.
While the set duo of Joe Root and Johnny Bairstow milked him for runs, often driving his fuller lengths against the spin through the covers, it was against another left hander, Ben Stokes, that Ashwin produced the goods.
After suffocating the dynamite all-rounder ball after ball with deliveries bowled into Stokes spinning away and sometimes even the odd variation spinning into him, England's trump card and the spine of their lower middle order was drawn into a false stroke, having been deceived by the slowness and the grip of the ball onto the pitch, he sent a leading edge down the throat of the gleefully accepting offie.
Ashwin then came back to dismiss another left-handed batsman, Stuart Broad, his downfall being brought about by a delivery that was a mirror image of the one that accounted for Cook. The perfectly angled delivery, bowled around the wicket into Broad, held its line and trapped him in front of the stumps.