And now it seems Steve Smith is shaping up as Ashwin’s bunny. The offie dismissed Smith twice in the two Test matches so far in the series and it’s the fifth time that he has got the Aussie superstar out in Tests.
Smith has always been a fantastic player of spin bowling and he uses his feet to great effect. Add to that his ability to use his wrists and here’s a player who can deal with the guile of the best spinners day in day out. Yet, to Ashwin’s credit, he is finding numerous ways to get Smith out.
While in Adelaide during the pink-ball Test, he set Smith up with a traditional offbreak and then slipped in a beautiful straighter one to take his edge, on Saturday it was a big turning leg-break first up that softened Smith up.
The Aussie had just walked into bat and it seemed he was still a bit unsure about his feet movement. Ashwin, with a leg slip, bowled a big turning off-break that even beat keeper Rishabh Pant and went for byes.
2nd Test, Day 1: Smith falls to Ashwin, yet again
Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Steve Smith for the second successive time in this series, this time in the Boxing Day Test. (Getty Images)
But the seeds of doubt had already been planted in Smith’s mind. He didn’t expect such a big turner so early on in the first day and now he didn’t quite figure how much the next ball would turn.
And it was at this juncture that Ashwin brought his fantastic repertoire of spin bowling into play. He pitched one at the same spot and this time, it turned just a little less. Smith was committed to playing the glance off his hips to get a single and get off the mark, but couldn’t keep the ball down despite knowing that a trap had been set for him.
Ashwin’s joy knew no bounds as Smith, the probable nemesis of the Indian team, took the long walk back. Ashwin is a cricketer who spends a lot of time trying to master the different variations and outfox batsmen with new ideas. It was obvious that he was excited to get a batsman, who is probably the best player of spin outside the subcontinent, to fall for a trap that he has worked on.
The Chennai offie already has created a sense of aura around the Aussies on this tour. Most of the batsmen are not picking his variations from his hand and are trying to play him off the pitch.
The two other scalps of his 3-35 on Saturday Tim Paine and Matthew Wade too are decent players of spin. Yet Wade, unable to deal with Ashwin, played a desperate shot and gave a high catch to mid-on and Paine’s dismissal was a carbon copy of Smith’s. Ashwin had Marcus Labuschagne leg before with an off-break that didn’t turn much, but it got narrowly overturned by DRS.
But Ashwin’s spell on a Day 1 track conducive for seam and pace was nothing short of a masterclass and the 32-year-old is showing in every move of his how much he has learnt in the three Test trips that he has made before this to Australia. If India make a competitive reply of Australia’s modest first-innings score, one can hope Ashwin will work his magic in tandem with Ravindra Jadeja when the hosts bat again.