Ashwin’s challenging series

Sports

Point the seam somewhere between fine leg and deep backward square. Fizz it out of your fingers, and put some body behind it. This should give you a healthy smear of side-spin and a generous squeeze of over-spin, ensuring both drift and dip to confound the batsman's reading of line and length. If you land it just right, like Ravichandran Ashwin did against Tim Bresnan at Ranchi, you have the perfect off-spinner's dismissal, bowled through the gate.

This sort of dismissal is a rare sight in limited-overs cricket, and it's likely to become rarer still in the years to come.

In the immediate future, Ashwin is unlikely to repeat it in the fourth ODI.

On Monday afternoon, a jet plane flew high over the PCA Stadium nets, dividing the cloudless sky into two unambiguous halves with a perfectly straight vapour trail. During the fourth ODI, balls delivered by the spinners won't be so utterly lacking in deviation, but traditionally, the wicket at Mohali, especially during winter, doesn't offer too much purchase. If this is the case, Ashwin's line of attack is sure to change.

At Ranchi, the pitch provided Ashwin enough grip to permit him to pitch it well outside off stump. And he did so frequently. But most of these balls turned enough to head down the leg-side. His wagon wheel showed that 24 of the 36 runs he conceded — and 18 of the English batsmen's 26 scoring shots against him — came through the leg side.

This has for long been the preferred mode of operation for off-spinners in ODIs. Pitch outside off on helpful wickets, or hug off-and-middle or even middle-and-leg on flatter decks, and make the batsman play with the spin, towards a well-protected on side. Even the big hits with the spin — the lofted drive over mid on, the slog sweep over cow corner — are easier to pull off against balls turning in from outside off, as demonstrated by Joe Root in Ashwin's first over.

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