The equation between Rising Pune Supergiants skipper MS Dhoni and off-spinner R Ashwin has been a hard one to solve.
Before their previous game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, it had appeared that the trust between the captain and the player had been resurrected. However, the game saw the senior off-spinner bowl just one over in the game. It followed a trend from the initial phase in this season of the IPL as well.
The phase had seen Ashwin get just one or two overs in a game, even while the less experienced M Ashwin got to bowl his full quota of four overs.
The trend seemed to have changed but then again Ashwin was allowed to bowl just one over against RCB.
On Tuesday, as Pune took on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their ‘home’ game in Visakhapatnam, Dhoni turned to the senior Ashwin on a track that had something in it for the spinners.
Ashwin was handed the ball in the seventh over of the match. He extracted turn immediately off the wicket and was allowed to bowl his entire quota of overs in one go.
The 29-year-old was the most miserly Pune bowler on the night, leaking just 16 runs in four overs. He also picked up the crucial wicket of Shikhar Dhawan (33) just as he was looking to accelerate.
Most importantly he dried up the runs with 14 dot balls and added pressure on the Sunrisers. Ashwin’s economical spell paved the way for leg-spinner Adam Zampa to come in for his second spell later and pick wickets (6/19).
Most importantly for Ashwin, it gave his skipper a chance to dictate terms on the field, a sight that has been rare spot in the season so far. Dhoni appeared to know exactly what was needed to break Sunrisers’ batting. He did not use Ashwin and Zampa in tandem, but still got the best out of the conditions available.
The efforts of both saw Pune restrict Sunrisers to 137/8, a relatively small total considering the totals the Hyderabad outfit have posted in the games gone by.