Among the 37 wickets that fell in the first Test at Johannesburg, only four were scalped by spinners.
Even that doesn’t tell the full story as South Africa’s leg-spinner Imran Tahir bowled below-par and yet managed two wickets from the Indian tail. Tahir’s compatriot J-P. Duminy gained another two, though these were from the middle-order (Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane). In contrast, R. Ashwin drew a blank though he did his containing role well on a pitch that was biased towards the fast bowlers.Defending Ashwin
Understandably, Cheteshwar Pujara defended Ashwin in a press-conference here on Tuesday and said: “There wasn’t much help for the spinners but the kind of line and length he bowled, he was getting a little bit of turn despite fast bowlers getting more help. He bowled in the right areas and Faf (du Plessis) was struggling to play him. I don’t think there was anything wrong with Ashwin's bowling and he did his job,” Pujara said.
Pujara was quick to highlight Tahir’s poor display and said: “I think Tahir didn’t bowl well. With the kind of expectations South Africa had of him, he didn’t bowl well enough and they also knew that they would have to bowl Duminy and him because (Morne) Morkel was injured in the second innings. We took advantage and wanted to capitalise when they were on and we were successful.”
“On that wicket there wasn’t much help for the spinners so I don’t want to rate anybody but I think we batted well and Indians are known to bat well against spinners.”
Later, Graeme Smith was asked about whether he will field four fast bowlers here in the second Test considering Tahir’s lukewarm show in the first, but the host skipper said he will look at the Kingsmead pitch and then decide.
“At the Wanderers pitch, even Ashwin wasn’t effective,” he countered. Durban though is supposed to aid spin and that should keep the slow-brigade in both teams happy.