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Virat Kohli raises his bat after his half century during Day 3 of 2nd Test between India and England AFP

“Hadn’t had a five-wicket haul against England, but it was not at the top of my mind. I knew I would get it if I stuck to what I do right,” Ravichandran Ashwin said after he registered his 22nd five-wicket haul in only his 40th Test. His achievements are rather staggering in the longest format even more staggering than his captain Virat Kohli. Ashwin has seven Man of the Series awards to his name, the most by any Indian. Now think of the former Indian Test cricketers who caught the world in trance with their superior performances: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, to name a few. FULL Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 2nd Test at Vizag

Ashwin is 30, and is likely to play for another half a decade at least. And at this pace, he might surpass the great Muttiah Muralitharan, who has most Man of the Series (11).”It is not about trials, it is about having the heart to try it (different things) in the middle of the game,” added the spinner. The statement is an evidence to the fact that Ashwin isn’t the one to back down and wears heart on his sleeves. The track, for that matter, did not have enough venom for the bowlers. While pacers had to bend their back, spinners had to patiently wait for the batsmen to commit mistakes.

“The challenges are actually a hassle for the batsmen. Not every ball spins. I was in the middle of very good rhythm. I told Virat I will get Joe Root out caught out at short midwicket. Virat said let’s get mid-on up and make him go for a slog sweep. I thought the moment he steps out I was going to go wider. That worked. The last wicket was slow, so I changed my action to create more air space I am sure I have it.”

Ashwin is an astute reader of the game. He does not shy away from trying variations even in toughest of junctures. He always has a gameplan for every batsman. And Root was just another victim of his.

At the start of Day Three, he had only 2 wickets to his name. The in-form Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow were at the crease.

The wicket that helped spinners maze the batsmen on Day Two had slowed down, helping the Stokes-Bairstow duo churn out runs with ease. The duo added 110 runs for the sixth wicket, scoring a fifty each.

The game was drifting away from India. Kohli tried and tested many a tactic, but the English batsmen had found their feet.

As the ball got older, he introduced Umesh Yadav into the attack, asking him to reverse-swing the ball. Short mid-wicket and forward short-leg were in place just in case Umesh jabs the ball in.

Few deliveries later, Umesh pitched it full and dismantled Bairstow’s defence with an absolute jaffa. India needed four more wickets to put England in further trouble.

Ashwin until then had only 2 wickets to his name. With Jadeja bowling well from the other end, a five-for was not on cards. But Ashwin continued being Ashwin. He picked up 3 of the 4 wickets and scaled up the five-wicket column. England were skittled out for 255, falling short of 200. Kohli, however, did not enforce follow-on.

In reply, India lost three wickets in quick succession: KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. India were reduced to 40 for 3.

The onus was on Kohli (I have written this statement n number of times). He scored an unbeaten 56 to take India to 98 for 3, leading by 298 runs.

Predictions:

India will look to add 150 runs more till mid-tea, and set up a target of at least 450 to be on the safer side.

Not long ago did they obliterate New Zealand in a matter of a session. But the opposition is England this time. They scored 500-plus runs in the 1st Test, something New Zealand could not do.

If this happens so, the match is likely to go to Day Five, and England will have to play out of their skins to get over the line.

However, there are high chances that England bundle India out for a low score, and chase a target of around 350. All the same, for that to happen, their bowlers will have to bowl well as cohesive unit and take Kohli’s wicket in the first hour of Day Four.

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)