The Ashwin, Jadeja double act awaits England in Hyderabad | Crickit
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The Ashwin, Jadeja double act awaits England in Hyderabad

Jan 24, 2024 09:12 PM IST

The spinners have dominated the opposition with the ball while their batting too can frustrate England in the five-Test series.

Going into the five-Test series, England captain Ben Stokes made no bones about how difficult it is to play in India. The last time England came, two years ago, they lost 3-1. In 2016-17, they lost four of the five Tests.

Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin(PTI)
Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin(PTI)

England’s brand of batting has changed since. They now pride in taking on the opposition bowlers with aggressive batting. Their confidence will be high after whitewashing Pakistan in an away series last season. But playing a certain brand of cricket in pitch conditions which favour it and doing it in conditions which don’t, against the best bowlers in the world in those conditions, is an entirely different ask.

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In the five-Test series starting on Thursday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, the main focus will be on how England’s Bazball batting approach works against spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Can they be brave to take on the Indian spinners, have that conviction to play strokes on tracks that resemble minefields? That will be the challenge for Ben Stokes and his team.

Off-spinner Ashwin and left-arm Jadeja are among the best in the business in their craft. But it is how they bowl in tandem that stands out. When they get going, they bowl long spells, so there is no respite from either end for batters. One is accurate, the other keeps on trying his variations. Depending on what the wicket is doing, they become more deadly. Irrespective of the purchase he is getting, Ashwin can work his magic, and when there is some bite on offer, Jadeja starts dominating the batters.

Ask the Australia batters who played in India last season. In the four Tests, Ashwin took 25 wickets and Jadeja 22. It is a treat to watch them complement each other. The numbers speak for it. In the 49 Tests they have played together, the combined tally is 500 wickets. The two get to play as a pair mainly in home conditions, in 40 Tests. Ashwin has 337 wickets in 55 Tests at home with 26 five-fors and six 10-wicket hauls; Jadeja has 194 wickets in 40 home Tests.

Jadeja missed the 2021 series against England due to injury, but Ashwin was brilliant with 32 wickets in four games. His is likely to be a special series as the ace off-spinner is 10 short of the milestone of 500 wickets. He will become only the second Indian bowler to reach the mark -- Anil Kumble has 619 Test scalps. And if he figures in all five Tests, the final game at Dharamsala will be Ashwin's 100th Test.

The England batters better watch out for him at Uppal. He loves the bounce the Hyderabad pitch offers, having taken 27 scalps in four Tests here. Jadeja has 15 wickets in three.

India captain Rohit Sharma expected Ashwin to do the job again. “We know his class, we know his quality. Every time he plays for us, he tends to step up a notch. We do appreciate that. You know how important a player he is for us. He's shown it for a number of years now; every time he gets an opportunity, he puts the team ahead. I hope this series is no different for him, he comes out and does what he does the best. So hopefully, he can do the job for us how he's done it in the previous tournaments,” Rohit said.

BATTING DEPTH

England bowlers will also have sleepless nights on how to tackle Ashwin and Jadeja the batters. Their batting on rank turners has been critical in India’s home domination, having saved the team often. Battling a stubborn lower order can be the most frustrating for bowlers, and psychologically demoralising. England will not forget Ashwin’s second innings hundred in the second Test in Chennai in the 2021-22 series. In six innings, the seasoned player chipped in with a valuable 189 runs at 31.50.

At home, Ashwin has 1,708 runs at an average of 28 with three hundreds. Jadeja has 1,592 runs at 39.80.

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