Ashwin-Umesh Pull Length, India Back

Last Updated: March 02, 2023, 12:22 IST

Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav took three wickets each. (AP Photo)

Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav took three wickets each. (AP Photo)

With Australia making a steady progress in the morning session, the pair of Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav joined forces to engineer a remarkable turnaround

It was the 68th over of the Australian innings and Ravindra Jadeja had been bowling non-stop since the start of day’s play. He would get the odd one to grip and turn but was negated well by Cameron Green and Peter Handscomb for the first hour. That particular over he would go past Handscomb on a couple of occasions, bowl a no-ball but didn’t really make the inroads India were looking for in the first hour.

Midway through his over, R Ashwin, fielding at mid-on, started warming-up and was getting ready for that one over before the drinks interval. He got one in the 69th over and was on the money straightaway. After watching proceedings closely, Ashwin had figured the right length which was one trick India bowlers missed on Day 1 and in the first half of the session on Thursday.

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At the drinks break, Australia were the happier unit as they went on from 156/4 to 186/4 – unscathed and the pressure was now mounting on India as the lead was also increasing. Madness unfolded after the drinks break as Ashwin struck in the first over to end Handscomb’s (98-ball 19) resistance and Umesh Yadav ran in hard from the other end to wipe off the lower-order without allowing too much damage.

From 186/4, Australia collapsed to 197/10 in just 39 deliveries after the drinks break. It was similar to India’s collapse in the first half of the morning session on Day 1 as the hosts had lost half their side in 68 deliveries and the scoreboard read a concerning 45/5.

Full marks to Australia for their resistance but India bowlers – Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel – erred with their lengths and were a tad too full to exploit the surface.

Jadeja, in particular, kept searching for that full and spinning away sharply glory ball and was safely dealt by straight bats and long strides of both Green and Handscomb. The left-armer picked four wickets on Wednesday and was the most effective bowler for the hosts but missed a trick with the length in the morning session. Three of his four wickets on Day 1 came from the good length spot and it was a plan he should have stuck to as the deliveries were behaving differently from that position.

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Ashwin made the adjustment and had immediate impact as he picked three wickets in the space of just nine deliveries and didn’t allow the hosts to get away with a substantial lead. For Ashwin, what worked was the pace at which he bowled – much slower than what Axar and Jadeja did. And the experienced off-spinner attacked the stumps from the good length area and allowed the pitch to do its bit.

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The ball was coming nicely off his hand and he exploited the surface with the right lines and the appropriate pace. After playing spectator for most of the pre-drinks session, he got into the act quickly and wrapped things in a hurry.

Umesh breathes fire

After the first two Tests, no one would have expected Umesh Yadav to be in the playing XI. Yes, an injury here and there could have helped him make way into the team but Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj were always going to be the first-choice seamers. The management sprung a surprise at the toss when they decided to “rest” Shami and in came Umesh.

For years now, 12 years since his first Test for India, Umesh has rarely been the first choice in the Playing XI and has continued to be the second choice to an either more experienced quick or a very promising youngster. A place in the Indore Test playing XI was definitely not on the cards and the speedster grabbed it with both hands, and how.

Even in the morning session, Umesh was the second choice for skipper Rohit Sharma as he opened proceedings with Siraj and handed the ball over to Umesh only post drinks. The 35-year-old picked his first one when trapped Green in front for 21 and added two more to his tally when he sent the stumps of Mitchell Starc and Todd Murphy cartwheeling. Umesh’s plan was simple and he kept attacking the stumps from a nice length and the incisive angles did the rest.

The deliveries to get rid of Starc and Murphy injected a fresh lease of life into the press box, which was reduced to snooze mode after Australia’s resistance in the first hour.

It will be fair to say that visitors do have a slight edge with that lead and India would need to bat really well to put the pressure back on them. Momentum is on their side after the post-drinks burst and it’s time the batters make most of it.

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