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Ashwin and the England puzzle – Can off-spinner dominate in Jadeja’s absence?

India vs England: Despite his match winning exploits against all teams, Ashwin has at times found the going tough against England in India.

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2021 03:54 PM IST

India’s impressive run in Test cricket on home soil, which has seen them not lose a single series at home since the 1-2 debacle against Alastair Cook’s England in 2012-13, has been possible because of the complete domination of the opposition by the Indians spinners.

But the biggest match winner of them all has been the off-spin wizard Ravichandran Ashwin. His consistency in terms of picking up wickets has seen India beat every team on home soil.

Despite his match winning exploits against all teams, Ashwin has found the going tough at times against England in India. Ashwin was part of the team that lost to England in 2012-13 and was outdone by the English duo of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.

While India secured a 4-0 win over England in 2016-17, it was due to the exploits of the batsmen and the collective effort of the entire bowling unit, which included the brilliant Ravindra Jadeja, whom India is missing dearly in the current series as he recuperates from a broken thumb. Ashwin was the highest wicket-taker in the 2016-17 series against England with 28 wickets. He was ably supported by Jadeja who picked up 26 wickets at a far superior average.

In 10 Tests at home against England, Ashwin has picked up 51 wickets at an average of 35.11, which is his worst against any top Test playing nation at home. Even in the first Test of this series, Ashwin bagged a total of 9 wickets, but was unable to dent the English in the first innings as they scored a huge total.

R Ashwin record against all opposition in Tests in India

How Ashwin handles the pressure in the second Test at the same venue will be interesting to see. He needs to get the better of Joe Root and that battle could very well decide the fate of the rest of the series for India.

The other noticeable thing is how Ashwin’s performance gets a lift when he is playing alongside Ravindra Jadeja. The left-arm spinner’s accuracy and control is the perfect foil for the skill and variety of Ashwin. The off spinner often benefits from the pressure created by Jadeja, which helps him pick up wickets at the other end.

The impact of Ravindra Jadeja on Ashwin’s performance in Test cricket

This is visible in his record in Test cricket when he has partnered with Jadeja. But the left-arm spinner isn’t available and Ashwin will have to come up with the goods to ensure India bounce back from a defeat and are able to continue their winning run on home soil.

The second Test match will be played in Chennai from February 13. India need to win the series by a margin of 2-1 or more to qualify for the final of the World Test Championship, to be played at The Lord’s cricket ground in London in June. New Zealand have already qualified for the final.

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