Ashwin six for 81 put India in firm control


Indore (India)—India declined to enforce the follow-on after R Ashwin’s 20th five-wicket haul in Test cricket helped bowl New Zealand out for 299 on the third day of the Indore Test. Ashwin’s 6 for 81 secured a 258-run lead, and left India enough time to bat again and give their bowlers a well-earned rest.
With six overs left to bat out at the end of the day, India stretched their lead to 276 without losing a wicket. But they didn’t survive entirely unscathed. In the third over, Gautam Gambhir retired hurt after aggravating a shoulder injury he had sustained while fielding. Diving to complete a tight second run, he landed awkwardly and walked off clutching his shoulder. M Vijay, meanwhile, earned himself a caution as well as an official warning for running on the danger area of the pitch. A similar offence in the first innings had cost Ravindra Jadeja half his match fee while also conceding five penalty runs to New Zealand.
Ashwin took his first four wickets either side of lunch, dismantling New Zealand’s top ORDER after Martin Guptill and Tom Latham added 118 for the first wicket. The wicket of Latham began a collapse during which New Zealand lost five wickets for 30 runs. James Neesham led a recovery of sorts, adding 53 with BJ Watling for the sixth wicket and 52 with Mitchell Santner for the seventh, but Jadeja ended both those partnerships before they could assume worrying proportions. Turn and bounce caused Watling to glove to slip, while turn out of the rough found Santner’s inside edge as he looked to drive out of the rough.
Neesham, playing his first innings of the series, swept the spinners impressively to get to 71 before the shot cost him his wicket against Ashwin. The ball pitched shorter than he expected, on an off-stump line, and hit him on the back leg. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena raised his finger in response to Ashwin’s appeal, but replays suggested the ball may have turned past off stump. It only took India four overs to get the last two wickets, Ashwin dropping a return catch but deflecting the ball onto the stumps to run Jeetan Patel out at the non-striker’s end – the second time he had effected such a dismissal in the innings – and Trent Boult holing out while looking to clear the on-side boundary.
On the least helpful pitch of the series, Ashwin’s wickets came largely through his deception in the air, which constantly disrupted the batsmen’s reading of line and length. For the third time in three innings, he dismissed Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s best batsman. In the fourth over after lunch, Williamson went on the back foot to a good-length ball, tempted into cutting by the line wide of off stump. The ball didn’t turn as much as the one that bowled him in the first innings in Kanpur, but it turned enough, with extra bounce, to cramp him and force him to chop on.
Ross Taylor was next to go, undone yet again by his technique of playing across the line while defending. The ball dipped and pitched shorter than Taylor had expected, which may not have caused him too much of a problem had his bat-swing had come straight down the line of the ball. Instead, as is often the case, it came down from gully towards wide mid-on, causing him to edge to slip.
Then came a bit of bad luck for Guptill, who, playing his first innings of any significance in the series, was caught out of his crease at the non-striker’s end when Ashwin deflected a straight drive from Luke Ronchi onto the stumps. Having played an unwitting hand in his dismissal, Ronchi followed Guptill into the dressing room in Ashwin’s next over, when drift caused him to play down the wrong line of an offbreak. Another catch for Ajinkya Rahane at slip, except he had to dive to his right to grab this one.
R Ashwin dismissed Kane Williamson for the third time in three innings © BCCI
New Zealand’s slump began 15 minutes before lunch, when Ashwin found a way past Latham’s defiance.—AFP