Chasing 234, when England raced to 63 in 10 overs, it looked like it would be another cakewalk. That from the opening platform, India made Alastair Cook's batsmen huff and puff to victory, tells a story of a fine fightback. The architects of that were spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. They produced inspired performances to lift the team and ensured there weren't any easy runs.
After struggling to settle down on the tour, Ashwin finally found his rhythm at the Oval, picking up three wickets. Playing the support role to perfection, Jadeja capped his fine innings of 78 with two big wickets. During their rivetting show, the spin duo also provided England a hint of what to expect in the return series in India next month.
Skipper MS Dhoni introduced spin in the 13th over and the impact was immediate. Jadeja started with a one-run over, and soon clean bowled the dangerous Craig Kieswetter. When Ashwin was brought on in the 17th over from the other end, England started to feel the pressure. The lanky off-spinner surprised Trott with a ball that went the other way to hit his off-stump. The boundaries dried up and the first four off them came in the 23rd over.
The two struck three more blows and for the first time in the series, the England batsmen showed signs of nerves. Ahead of the Lord’s ODI, it has got the England management thinking. Skipper Alastair Cook admitted the tweakers had surprised them. “It was strange some balls swung and spun a lot, and some others didn’t. We will have a close look at them and study the videos,” said Cook. “It was pleasing the way we handled that pressure towards the end. But it was nerve-racking.”
Dhoni praised his spinners. “Ashwin is a thinking cricketer. He backs himself with the kind of variation he has got. I won't say he has not bowled well in this series; one of the reasons is that in whatever games we have played, there has been rain and to grip the ball for a finger spinner, it gets difficult.
“Jadeja's bowling was always up to the mark and may be it was the batting which was a concern. He has shown improvement right from the IPL.” If the batsmen can get a par total at Lord's, Ashwin and Jadeja will be a handful.