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Felt like a spring chicken: Ashwin

Ashwin enjoyed his first day at Test cricket in over six months

In the first three Tests of the series between England and India, R Ashwin was conspicuous by his absence. Everyone from the fans to the experts rooted for him to be included in the playing XI.

On the first day of the Old Trafford Test, he showed why. Walking in to bat with India at 63 for 6, Ashwin breezed his way to a 42-ball 40, teaming up with MS Dhoni for a 66-run partnership.

Later, coming on to bowl at the fag end of the day, the off-spinner bowled a tidy spell of seven overs for 16 runs. After his first day at Test cricket in six months, Ashwin said he was eager and hungry.

“It felt good; I felt like a spring chicken out of the box,” he said. “I felt like I was doing something new and I just went there and enjoyed my game. I did feel a bit scratchy and different so I had to fight my way through.”

Ashwin said it was a ploy between him and Dhoni to counterattack the England bowlers instead of succumbing under the scoreboard pressure.
“The ball was going around and kicking off the length as well. When we got together he asked me to play my game and the shots I wanted to play,” Ashwin said.

“We thought that was the way to go because with hardly any runs on the board and so many wickets down, we didn’t just want to be sitting ducks there. We were rotating the strike and not giving many overs away in terms of maidens. I thought MS batted brilliantly and it was a very gutsy knock from him.”

India were bundled out for 152 on the first morning after their catastrophic start of 8 for 4 in the first 30 minutes of the Test. As James Anderson and Stuart Broad swung the ball around under the overcast sky, six Indian batsmen fell without scoring.

Ashwin said it was difficult to bat out there but rued not getting a few more runs. “From whatever I played, I felt the pitch had something in it and the bowlers exploited it pretty well. Yes, maybe we could have got a little more runs. I thought we bowled pretty well to make a comeback and if we can knock off a few tomorrow morning, it will be nice.”

Ashwin looked set and comfortable at the crease and the runs flowed fluently. However, in an attempt to pull a short one from Broad, he gave his wicket away.

“I am pretty disappointed that I threw it away in the end; I could have scored more runs from there,” he rued. “I have only myself to blame because if we had a few more runs, we could have put a bit more pressure on them. But still, if we get helpful conditions tomorrow morning and get some early wickets, we will be right back into the game.”

About his bowling, the offie said he felt comfortable with the way he struck his rhythm. “I was just feeling my way through as it was a different day for me being back in the game,” Ashwin said.

“When I started, I just wanted to get my line and length right and didn’t want to give away too many runs. I struck my rhythm really well. And I am a sort of bowler that if I get three-four overs going nicely, I start toying around with my speed and revolutions on the ball. I felt really comfortable towards the end of the spell.”

Ashwin had a word of encouragement for Varun Aaron, who is playing his second Test after making a debut in 2011. “He got it right in the pockets of two-three overs and he bowled short spells,” Ashwin said of Aaron.

“When he got it right, he was handful. He definitely got Gary Ballance into a lot of trouble, who wasn’t able to get into good positions against Varun. He bowled quick and sharp. We just hope he carries on and gives us a fifer tomorrow.”

Shirin Sadikot

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Stats Highlights: Eng vs India, 4th Test - Day 1

MS Dhoni moves ahead of Ganguly by providing the fifth instance of scoring more than 50 runs as captain against England

India were playing their first Test at Manchester in 24 years. They had last played here in 1990.

Gautam Gambhir was making a comeback to Indian side after a gap of nearly 19 months. His last Test was also against England at Nagpur in December 2012.

MS Dhoni was leading India for the 14th time in a Test against England, thus equalling Sunil Gavaskar’s Indian record of most appearances as captain against England.

Alastair Cook was playing his 106th consecutive Test. Now only Allan Border (153) and Mark Waugh (107) have appeared in more consecutive Tests than Cook (India’s Sunil Gavaskar also had a streak of 106 matches on the trot).

When he caught Murali Vijay off the bowling of James Anderson, it was 23rd time Alastair Cook held a catch off Anderson’s bowling – most by a fielder / bowler combination for England.

From 8 for no loss India were soon down to 8 for four – their third worst start ever in Test cricket. Incidentally India’s two worst starts have also come against England. They were four down without any run on the board at Leeds in 1952. In the same series India were 6 for four at The Oval.

With Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli each recording a duck, it provided only the second instance for India of three batsmen out of top four failing to score. The only other instance came at Leeds in 1952.

James Anderson has now dismissed Virat Kohli three times in this series in 23 balls having conceded only two runs.

Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed for a duck for the first time in his Test career. This was also his first duck in first-class cricket since November 2008. He has now six first-class ducks against his name.

MS Dhoni (71), on 23, completed 1000 runs against England. He became only the second Indian wicketkeeper (after Farokh Engineer) and eighth wicketkeeper in all to do so.

MS Dhoni has now scored 11 fifties against England without ever reaching a hundred. He now shares the Test record of most fifties against a side without reaching the three-figure mark. South Africa’s Dave Nourse had also scored 11 fifties against England without ever converting any of those in to a hundred.

The fifty was Dhoni’s fifth in England. He now holds the record of making the most scores of 50 or more by an Indian captain in England, moving ahead of Sourav Ganguly (4).

James Anderson has now inflicted 54 ducks in Test cricket. He is now only three away from Bob Willis’ England record of dismissing most batsmen for a duck.

The six ducks in Indian innings equalled the existing world record of most ducks in a team innings. India now shares this ignominy with three other teams – Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Stuart Broad's 6 for 25 is the second best effort by an England bowler in the first innings of a Test against India after Alec Bedser's 7 for 49 at Lord's 1946.

Broad has now taken 8 six-wicket hauls in Test cricket. Now only Syd Barnes (12), Derek Underwood (10) and Ian Botham (10) have taken more six-wicket hauls for England than Broad.

During the Indian innings, James Anderson wrested the record of bowling most deliveries by an England bowler from Derek Underwood. At the end of the innings Anderson has bowled 21,910 deliveries in Test cricket. Underwood had bowled 21,862.

Rajneesh Gupta

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