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HindustanTimes Wed,27 Aug 2014
Spin-drop silence as Ashwin gets ready again
Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
Hyderabad, March 02, 2013
First Published: 00:54 IST(2/3/2013)
Last Updated: 02:21 IST(2/3/2013)
R Ashwin celebrating for the wicket of Australia's Matthew Wade during the first Test match at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. (PTI)

Playing in a city yet to recover from the shock of the recent bombings, one can sense the fear all around.

There is palpable nervousness in the Australia camp too, but it is for a different reason, though. They are reeling under the impact of R Ashwin, who claimed 12 wickets in  Heading into the second Test, the visitors' main concern is to cope with the ace bomber's arsenal and survive the spots from where the ball will explode on the dry, powdery surface rolled out for the game.

Spin will be on Michael Clarke's mind when his team takes on India from Saturday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Most of their training sessions and team talk since the Chennai defeat have been on devising a game plan to counter the threat posed by India's three-pronged spin attack.

The last time Ashwin played here, he finished the game inside four days against Australia's Trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand. Backed by Pragyan Ojha's left-arm spin, the two tweakers took 18 of the 20 wickets to fall in that match, played in August 2012.

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Australia batsmen have a history of issues against off-spin --- Harbhajan was their nemesis in the last decade and Ashwin has set the tone in this series with a dozen wickets in the opening rubber. The tall spinner will find it difficult to make an instant impact like at his home ground, but it's expected, he will have a major role to play if the hosts are to dominate the game.

If Australia are harbouring ambitions of emulating England's great comeback from a similar situation a few months ago, the visitors' think-tank's main challenge would be to come up with a strategy to counter the influence of the off-spinner. England were lucky that the lanky spinner lost form at that time because of too much experimenting.

Here, Ashwin's tail is up after a match-winning show, and with Ojha back in contention, the Australians can brace up for more pressure from the other end too.

Basic skills
The use of the feet to get to the pitch of the ball, using the depth of the crease and showing loads of patience are basic skills that help handle the turning ball. Some successfully employ the sweep shot. But, except for Clarke and Moises Henriques, the other batsmen have not shown the ability to play this brand of cricket.

For England, skipper Alastair Cook came up with a fine exhibition in the art of playing the slow bowlers on subcontinent tracks, anchoring the innings from his opening position. Clarke has the game to excel in such conditions. He displayed it during his hundred in the first Test, but, at No 5, he bats too deep to be able to calm the nerves in the dressing room. There is a strong thought building that in the team's best interests, the Sydney star should bat higher here.

Personal duel
His personal duel with Dhoni will be one of the main features of the series. Still in his early days in the job, Clarke accepted that the 2013 Border-Gavaskar series is one of the biggest challenges of his captaincy.

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He is a shrewd operator in the Mark Taylor mould and has it in him to lift the team with tactical nuances. Both are in good form with the bat and Dhoni has thrown down the gauntlet with a hurricane knock in the series opener. It's up to Clarke to show his mettle, now.

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