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Stats: India opening the bowling with two spinners in a Test innings

Only once in the history of Test matches, the first four or more bowlers who bowled in a Test innings were all spinners

Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha have opened the bowling for captain Dhoni four times

In the third innings of the Galle Test against Sri Lanka, the Indian skipper Virat Kohli introduced spinners from both ends to open the bowling. Ravichandran Ashwin (off-spinner) and Amit Mishra (leg-spinner) opened the bowling for India.

It is sometimes seen that one of the opening bowlers is a spinner with a pace bowler operating from the other end. But opening the bowling with two spinners is not seen often.

It is only the 11th time India opened the bowling with spinners from both the ends in a Test innings. Nine of those instances have come in this century (since 2000) and the last was against Australia at Chennai in 2012/13 where Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh opened the bowling, on directions of skipper MS Dhoni.

The last time this happened in a match involving any team was during the Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe match at Khulna in November 2014. The spinners were Taijul Islam and Shakib Al Hasan. The table below lists the 11 instances of India opening the bowling with two spinners.

India opening the bowling with 2 spinners

Spinners

Captain

Inning

Opposition

Venue

Season

Result

Ghulam Ahmed & Vinoo Mankad

Vijay Hazare

4

England

Kanpur

1951/52

Lost

ML Jaisimha & Salim Durani

MAK Pataudi

1

England

Kanpur

1963/64

Drawn

Sachin Tendulkar & Harbhajan Singh

Sourav Ganguly

4

West Indies

Bridgetown

2002

Lost

Anil Kumble & Virender Sehwag

Anil Kumble

4

Australia

Delhi

2008/09

Drawn

Harbhajan Singh & Pragyan Ojha

MS Dhoni

3

Sri Lanka

Mumbai (BS)

2009/10

Won

Pragyan Ojha & Ravichandran Ashwin

MS Dhoni

3

West Indies

Delhi

2011/12

Won

Ravichandran Ashwin & Pragyan Ojha

MS Dhoni

2

England

Mumbai (WS)

2012/13

Lost

Ravichandran Ashwin & Pragyan Ojha

MS Dhoni

4

England

Mumbai (WS)

2012/13

Lost

Ravichandran Ashwin & Pragyan Ojha

MS Dhoni

4

England

Eden Gardens

2012/13

Lost

Ravichandran Ashwin & Harbhajan Singh

MS Dhoni

3

Australia

Chennai

2012/13

Won

Ravichandran Ashwin & Amit Mishra

Virat Kohli

3

Sri Lanka

Galle

2015

Lost

Of the 11 instances, five have come in the fourth innings of a Test.

MAK Pataudi is the only Indian captain to begin a Test match with two spinners from both ends in the first innings.

MS Dhoni introduced spinners from both ends in both innings of the Wankhede Test against England in 2012/13.

Out of the 11 instances, only three times India went on to win those Tests.

Only two instances from 1932 to 2000 and nine since 2000.

MS Dhoni has done it six times from 2009/10 to 2012/13.

Overall, 31 times teams have opened the bowling with two spinners in a Test match, including 11 by India. Let’s see how many times have other teams have done the same.

No. of times each team opened bowling with two spinner

Team

Number of times

England

11

India

11

Australia

3

Sri Lanka

2

Bangladesh

1

Pakistan

1

South Africa

1

West Indies

1

New Zealand

0

Zimbabwe

0

First three bowlers all being spinners – Six times for India, the first three bowlers to bowl in an innings were all spinners. In the Galle Test also, after Ashwin and Mishra, it was Harbhajan who bowled. Overall 10 times, the first three bowlers have been all spinners.

Apart from India doing it six times, Sri Lanka did it twice and England and Bangladesh once.

First four or more bowlers all being spinners – Only once in the history of Test matches, the first four or more bowlers who bowled in a Test innings were all spinners. It was by India against England at Kanpur in 1963/64 when the skipper was MAK Pataudi and the first six bowlers were all spinners – ML Jaisimha, Salim Durani, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Baloo Gupte, Chandu Borde and Bapu Nadkarni.

Only the seventh bowler was a pacer – the captain MAK Pataudi himself. There was no genuine pace bowler for India in the match! 

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