Five-star Ojha joins elite band

Pragyan Ojha became the fifth Indian left-arm spinner to take a five-wicket haul against England in Tests, and the Hyderabadi was understandably chuffed with his effort.

“I think the most satisfying (part) is to get a five-for against England, one of the best sides, and I am happy that my effort came in the first innings. I am quite satisfied with the way I bowled today,” Ojha told media persons on Saturday. It was also his fourth five-for in 16 Tests.

Other Indian left-arm spinners to take five-for against England are Bishan Singh Bedi, Vinoo Mankad, Dileep Doshi and Ravi Shastri.  

But more than that record, the way Ojha operated to take advantage of the surface was impressive. There weren’t any demons in the pitch, and Ojha is not the kind of bowler who gives you nightmares with his variations or sharp turn.

His strength lies in maintaining a steady line and length, putting pressure on batsmen to score off him. The 13-over unbroken spell he bowled in the morning session on the day (13-5-26-2) offered evidence of his bowling philosophy.

Ojha, who opened the bowling along with R Ashwin, had the tough job of containing a set-looking Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, who adopted an aggressive approach in his bid to tame the Indian spinners.

Gradually, he began trying to reach out for the balls to smother the spin, and Ojha had to remain patient. The reward for his perseverance came soon when Pietersen failed to block a delivery that turned just enough to beat his bat, rattling the stumps.

He soon got another important wicket when Ian Bell lofted a simple catch to Tendulkar. “The way KP and Bell came and played I thought I can get them if I bowl in the right areas. When a batsman tries to step out and play…it’s a very encouraging sign for a spinner because they are trying to take you on a wicket that is turning. It’s challenging and I enjoy it,” Ojha said.

But the day’s success has not gone on to Ojha’s head. He stays clear about the way forward. “I think, I shouldn’t be taking things easy in this series. It’s a long series, a lot of hard work to do. So, it’s just a beginning,” he said. Certainly, Ojha has made the right beginning.

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