India vs England, 1st Test: Not trying variations is working well for R Ashwin in England, feels Harbhajan Singh

From one Indian record-setting offspinner to the other, Harbhajan Singh has lavished praise on R Ashwin  for his bowling during the ongoing first Test between India and England at Edgbaston.

Picked as the sole spinner in India’s XI for the Birmingham Test, Ashwin has so far claimed five wickets, four of which came on the first day. That made Ashwin the first visiting spinner to ever claim four wickets on the opening day of a Test match on English soil, and watching from close range, Harbhajan said it was the best he had seen Ashwin bowl outside of India.

SCORECARD | MATCH HOME

“This is the best I have seen Ashwin bowl outside the subcontinent. He has done very well over the years but most of his wickets have come in the subcontinent. Wickets don’t come easy back home either, but when the conditions are favourable, you tend to get more confidence,” Harbhajan, who is commentating on air during the Test series, told the The Times of India.

READ: India piggyback on Kohli’s 149

Harbhajan, 38, is India’s most successful finger-spinner in Test cricket with 417 wickets from 103 matches between 1998 and 2015. Ashwin took his place in the Test team in 2011, and since his stunning debut against West Indies has claimed 321 wickets in 59 Tests (the current one ongoing) while breaking several records.

However, he has often been criticised for attempting too many variations, especially in tougher conditions such as Australia, England and South Africa, when wickets have not been forthcoming as they have in the subcontinent.

READ: Battle Royale – Virat Kohli wins round one over James Anderson

Watching Ashwin dismiss Alastair Cook (twice), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad at Edgbaston, Harbhajan felt it was the lack of experimentation that was working for Ashwin.

Cookbowled

“When you are trying too much, it means you are not doing enough with your stock ball. Here in England, all those carom balls and googlies won’t make much of a difference because it doesn’t spin that much,” he said. “It’s crucial to deceive the batsman in flight if a spinner has to be successful in England and that’s exactly what Ashwin did.”

England lead India by 22 runs with nine wickets in hand, following India captain Virat Kohli’s stunning 149 that helped the visitors get from 182/8 to 274. In the 3.4 overs before stumps, Ashwin bowled Cook for the second time in the Test, which made it a record nine dismissals for him against the former England captain.

Added Harbhajan: “I think he is bowling seam up and there are more revs being imparted by putting it more in the air and it leads to overspin. It’s the best way to go about in these conditions, because unless you impart more spin on the ball, it just wouldn’t spin.”