Indian all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin scored his fifth Test century and a first ton in Chennai on day three of the second Test match against England at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Monday. With the BCCI allowing crowds back into the stadium, this was a special hundred for Ashwin.
In the post-day interview, Ashwin credited Indian batting coach Vikram Rathore. “I have been practising with Vikram Rathore. I would love to credit him with how my batting has come through over the last four-five matches. I don’t know when the next Test will be played here, but I am pleased,” he said.
The hometown hero scored 106 runs in 148 balls becoming the second Tamil Nadu player after Krishnamachari Srikkanth to score a century at MA Chidambaram stadium also known as Chepauk Stadium. He is now second on an elite list of players to take a five-wicket haul and score a century in the same match. English great Ian Botham has done it five times, followed by Ashwin who has scored a 100 and a taken a fifer in the same match three times. Gary Sober, Mushtaq Mohammad, Jacques Kallis, and Shakib Al-Hassan have done it twice. In this list, only Ashwin and Shakib are currently active while the rest have retired.
India was 106-6 when Ashwin joined skipper Virat Kohli in the middle. India had lost a flurry of wickets and needed one solid partnership to help set a huge total on the board for England to chase down. With the pitch doing tricks, and some tidy bowling by England spin balling duo of Jack Leach and Moen Ali, India had their work cut out for them. Kohli and Ashwin stepped up the pace and they were comfortably batting without any worry or fear. Both played with caution and aggression.
After Kohli fell for 62, Ashwin continued playing strokes. He swept the England spinners to great effect. However, he was losing partners at the other, a problem India faced during the first innings. When the last batsman, Mohammed Siraj walked in, Ashwin was 23 shy of his fifth Test ton and first at his home ground. With India just one wicket in hand, Ashwin continued playing his strokes. Siraj on the other end kept defending his way. With every ball Siraj defended, the crowd cheered as Ashwin was getting closer to his first home ton.
When Ashwin took his score into the 90s, the crowd at the stadium and home were on the edge of their seat, biting their nails. On the other hand, Ashwin decided to take the attack to Ali and smoked him for a six taking his score to 97. The very next ball, he pushed the ball towards extra cover for two runs taking the score to 99. England decided to slow things down by making changes to the field, wanting him to work hard for one solitary run. Ashwin keeping his aggression steps down the ground and tries to hit over the fielders inside the circle. He ends up edging the ball over the slips and it runs for a four, helping Ashwin register his milestone. The crowd and his teammates are on their feet applauding the fine innings from a fine player. Ashwin put on an excellent batting display on a pitch that was behaving like a day five pitch on day two.
Ashwin’s batting exhibition garnered praises from all quarters. Indian and overseas cricketers, from the past and present, all took to social media to congratulate Ashwin on his match-defining innings. In the last two days, many English legends and fans were unhappy with how the pitch was playing. However, Ashwin’s approach with the bat has shown how batsman can bat on a turning pitch.
Ashwin’s century and Kohli’s half-century helped India reach 286 runs in the second innings. England has two days and one session to chase down 482 runs to win the second test and take a 2-0 lead in the four-match series. At stumps on day three, England is 53-3 with Axar Patel picking two wickets and Ashwin picking one. If the pitch continues to deteriorate further, England may be bowled out by Tea tomorrow deteriorate further, England may be bowled out by Tea tomorrow.