Ashwin spins India to victory

Ashwin spins India to victory

Ashwin spins India to victory

How often do you get to see a spinner waiting for the new ball to make an impact? With the pitch getting progressively sluggish and the batsmen managing to negotiate the slow turn, it needed the second new ball — first instance that India had to take it in this series — for R Ashwin to put an end to a rare South African resistance.

In an impressive spell of 4.5-1-16-4 in the post-tea session, man of the match Ashwin wiped off the lower order as South Africa, resuming at 32/2 in a chase of 310, folded for 185 with more than an hour’s play left on the third day of the third Test here at the VCA stadium on Friday.

Ashwin’s returns of 7/66 in the second innings were his best in an innings while his 12/98 for the match — he had first innings figures of 5/32 — gave him his fourth 10-wicket haul in a match. His three five-wicket hauls in the series, with still a Test to go in Delhi, have netted the off-spinner 24 wickets from five innings thus far.
Ashwin’s partner in crime, Ravindra Jadeja, endured a rare wicketless innings but leggie Amit Mishra (3/51), like he had done in Mohali, provided crucial breakthroughs to open the floodgates.

While the 124-run win handed India an unassailable 2-0 lead, it ended South Africa’s unbeaten run in a series for nine years on the road. This is also the first home Test series win for skipper Virat Kohli and the second in a row after a 2-1 triumph in Sri Lanka.

Going into the third day, it was a matter of when rather than if. Having crashed to 79 in the first innings, South Africa weren’t expected to present much of a fight on a wicket where batting wasn’t the easiest of jobs. Their travails in relatively better conditions at Mohali and Bengaluru didn’t offer much hope either. And when opener Dean Elgar and AB de Villiers departed in the space six overs in the opening session, not many would have given South Africa a chance to last till the lunch. Amla (39, 219m, 167b, 2x4) and Faf du Plessis (39, 185m, 152b, 3x4, 1x6), however, frustrated the Indian bowlers.

While the two, who haven’t been amongst runs this series, showed a determination unseen in the previous four innings, the rub of the green too went their way. Edges fell short of fielders and difficult chances weren’t converted. Their effort also highlighted the fact that if the batsmen put their heads down and played the ball on its merit, survival on this surface wasn’t impossible. The 89.5 overs that South Africa played out here were the highest that any team has managed in a completed innings of this series while the 344 minutes that the visitors lasted are the longest by either team.

Between them, Amla and du Plessis raised 72 runs, the second highest partnership for them in five innings, but more importantly they consumed 173 minutes and 281 balls.

As India’s patience began to wear thin, though it was only the third day of the match, Mishra came up with a gem of delivery to end Amla’s vigil in the middle. Mishra drifted one on the off and got it to shape away from Amla whose forward defensive push resulted in an edge to Kohli at close-in field.

In the next over, Mishra cleaned up a pulling du Plessis who couldn’t get to a ball that almost rolled along the carpet. With both set batsmen gone in the space of 11 balls, India looked primed to perform last rites as they broke for tea.

JP Duminy and Dane Vilas battled along for nearly 10 overs before the new ball did them in. Ashwin dismissed both of them in the same over while Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel were easy meats for a bowler at the peak of his bowling prowess.

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