CRICKET / Ashwin becomes third Indian to do the double of a century and a five-wicket haul in a Test innings
R. Ashwin was a three-year-old toddler in Chennai (then Madras) when Sachin Tendulkar strode out to bat in his first Test at Karachi in 1989. The veteran and the youngster, split by a generation gap and fused by cricket, found heart-break and delight respectively within a span of five hours at the Wankhede Stadium here on Friday.
Tendulkar's 100th international ton proved to be a mirage and while he returned with 94, Ashwin's maiden Test century (103) was an expression of his varied talent and the right attitude. Ashwin's hundred and his 97-run seventh-wicket partnership with Virat Kohli also helped India avoid the follow-on during the fourth day of the third Test against the West Indies.
India scored 482 in reply to the West Indies' first innings score of 590. At close, the West Indies scored 81 for two in its second innings and has an overall lead of 189 runs after Pragyan Ojha prised out Adrian Barath and Kirk Edwards.
Laxman departs early
The day began with India's collective gaze resting on Tendulkar's tread from the overnight 67 to the three-figure knock. Tendulkar flicked Ravi Rampaul for four off the day's sixth delivery, but his partner V.V.S. Laxman deserted him off the very next ball bowled by Fidel Edwards. Laxman hung his bat and the edge found Marlon Samuels.
An imperious Tendulkar was immune to Laxman's departure. An Edwards over was shredded for 14 runs with an upper-cut six being the pick of the shots. The force was with Tendulkar, but fate moved in strange ways. Rampaul's delivery elicited a forcing shot and in a flash, Darren Sammy was running away from second slip with the ball in his hand. A sepulchral silence descended and the maestro wistfully left (94, 153b, 8x4, 2x6). This was the 10th instance of his pause in the nineties in a Test.
The match's shifting currents was on full view when Sammy's yorker cleaned up M.S. Dhoni and at 331 for six, India still needed 60 to avoid the follow-on.
Kohli and Ashwin then stepped in with their rescue act. Kohli (52), who whipped off his legs, reverted to a cautious mode but Ashwin (103, 118b, 15x4, 2x6) played his shots, steering Rampaul, flicking Sammy and disdainfully slapping a straight four off Edwards.
Ashwin's strokes were crisp and had no living-on-the-edge eccentricities associated with tail-enders. With two first-class hundreds under his belt, Ashwin reiterated his batting credentials in rousing fashion post-lunch and hoisted Devendra Bishoo for six. The off-spinner pipped Kohli in the race towards their respective maiden Test fifties that eased India past 400. Kohli could have gone on further but he holed out with a lofted shot.
Interest was now centred around Ashwin's hundred while Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron and Ojha hung around with dogged defence and a prayer in their hearts.
Ojha's unbeaten nought (14b) provided invaluable assistance to Ashwin, who also relished that sliver of fortune when he missed a pull off Rampaul and the ball brushed the helmet and sped for four. After Ojha survived an Edwards over, Ashwin dabbed Rampaul past third-man for a cherished four. The hundred was his, the helmet was off and the crowd lapped up the moment.
Ashwin immediately miscued a pull but he had written himself into cricket's gallery of all-round delights.
After Vinoo Mankad (184 and five for 196 vs England at Lord's in 1952) and Polly Umrigar (172 n.o. and five for 107 vs West Indies at Port of Spain in 1962), Ashwin became the third Indian to do the double of a century and a five-wicket haul in a Test innings.
Overall it was also the 27th instance in cricket and the list includes men like Gary Sobers, Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Jacques Kallis.
Ashwin the bowler will now come into play for the rest of the match, while the West Indies toys with the idea of a declaration on the final day.
West Indies — 1st innings: 590.
India — 1st innings: G. Gambhir c Baugh b Rampaul 55 (99b, 8x4), V. Sehwag b Sammy 37 (50b, 3x4, 1x6), R. Dravid b Samuels 82 (149b, 11x4), S. Tendulkar c Sammy b Rampaul 94 (153b, 8x4, 2x6), V.V.S. Laxman c Samuels b F. Edwards 32 (54b, 3x4), V. Kohli c F. Edwards b Bishoo 52 (111b, 5x4), M.S. Dhoni b Sammy 8 (21b, 1x4), R. Ashwin c Barath b Rampaul 103 (118b, 15x4, 2x6), Ishant c Bravo b Samuels 5 (36b), V. Aaron b Samuels 4 (14b, 1x4), P. Ojha (not out) 0 (14b); Extras (b-1, nb-5, w-4): 10; Total (in 135.4 overs): 482.
Fall of wickets: 1-67 (Sehwag), 2-138 (Gambhir), 3-224 (Dravid), 4-287 (Laxman), 5-322 (Tendulkar), 6-331 (Dhoni), 7-428 (Kohli), 8-455 (Ishant), 9-463 (Aaron).
West Indies bowling: F. Edwards 28-4-116-1, Rampaul 24.4-3-95-3, Sammy 26-3-90-2, Samuels 17-0-74-3, Bishoo 40-6-106-1.
West Indies — 2nd innings: A. Barath c Laxman b Ojha 3 (10b), K. Brathwaite (batting) 34 (102b, 2x4), K. Edwards st. Dhoni b Ojha 17 (24b, 3x4), D. Bravo (batting) 27 (68b, 2x4); Total (for two wkts. in 34 overs): 81.
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Barath), 2-30 (K. Edwards).
India bowling: Ojha 15-2-27-2, Ishant 5-2-12-0, Aaron 3-0-14-0, Ashwin 8-0-20-0, Sehwag 2-0-3-0, Tendulkar 1-0-5-0 .