SK Player of the Day: Ravichandran Ashwin for his magical performance against New Zealand
As New Zealand were riding high on openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill’s century stand, the fans looked concerned as the two batsmen had an answer to everything that the Indian bowlers threw at them. It was the first time that the New Zealand openers had put on a hundred-run partnership in the entire series.
As the partnership continued to grow stronger, Ravichandran Ashwin was the one who provided the crucial breakthrough. He outsmarted Latham with a ball that was slower through the air and as Latham closed the face of his bat too soon; he flighted the ball back to Ashwin, who completed the catch.
New Zealand’s downfall began soon after that. Kane Williamson fell cheaply as he dragged the ball onto the stumps. Ross Taylor did not trouble the scorers as he was dismissed for a duck by a relatively straighter ball by Ashwin.
Despite the quick wickets, Martin Guptill continued to take the attack to the bowlers, and a moment of brilliance was needed to dismiss him. And it was Ashwin who provided us with that memorable moment.
As Luke Ronchi geared up to face Ashwin, he looked to attack him as he was one of the only batsmen who counter-attacked the Indian spin bowling well throughout the series. In the 47th over as Ashwin dropped a full ball to him, Patel got to the pitch of the ball and played it straight back to him.
Ashwin, not a cricketer known for his fielding abilities, displayed razor-sharp reflexes to get his hands down in time. As the ball ricocheted off his hand and onto the stumps at the non-strikers' end, the Indians immediately wheeled away in celebration.
As the umpire had to take a look upstairs, multiple replays were required to make the decision. The replays eventually proved to show that Ashwin got a finger to the ball, which changed the direction of it as it hit the stumps. Martin Guptill was short of his crease and he had to depart as he was adjudged run out at the non-strikers end.
As Guptill departed, Ashwin continued to trouble the batsmen and picked up two more wickets to complete his 20th five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Ronchi was dismissed thanks to a brilliant catch by Ajinkya Rahane, and Jimmy Neesham who scored a well crafted 71 was dismissed LBW.
Jadeja chipped in with two wickets as he dismissed BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner.
After going strong at 118-1, New Zealand were struggling at 271/8. As Jeetan Patel and Matt Henry tried to recover their innings, lightning struck twice.
Patel, who was standing at the non-striker's end was dismissed in the same fashion as Guptill.
Henry, who was on strike flighted the ball to Ashwin, who missed the opportunity to dismiss him as he dropped the catch. As the ball went through his hands, he managed to get a finger to it, and the ball went onto the stumps. Patel, backing up, couldn't put his bat down in time even though it was pushed behind the crease.
Ashwin managed to get 6 wickets as he got rid of Trent Boult and bowl the Kiwis out for 299. Trailing by 258 runs, India did not enforce the follow-on and ended the day at 18-0, with Gambhir retiring hurt as he aggravated a shoulder injury he suffered while fielding.
Ashwin has been all that is right for Indian cricket over the past few years. The way he has taken control of the entire bowling department of the Indian team is quite fascinating, to say the least. Most recently, he became the fastest Indian bowler to reach 200 Test wickets and by doing so, received a lot of praise from legendary spinners such as Muttiah Muralitharan and Erapalli Prasanna who called him the best spinner in the world.