It is not everyday that two identical spinners are picked in the playing eleven. India chose Jayant Yadav as the second off-spinner to support Ravichandran Ashwin as England had six left-handers, a ploy which worked and provided a peek into the future. (Scorecard).
While Ashwin, in his 41st Test, took eight wickets, including his 22nd five-wicket haul, and scored 65 runs, debutant Jayant scored 62 and took four wickets, including perhaps the ball of the match to bowl Ben Stokes in the second innings.
India’s latest off-spinner duo shaped the course of the Test, and showed they are safe bets with the bat as well. With four Test hundreds, Ashwin bats at No 6. Not only did he raise 35 runs with Virat Kohli for the fifth wicket in the first innings, Ashwin shepherded the lower order with partnerships (12 with Wriddhiman Saha and 64 with Jayant. Without those runs, India would not have got past the psychologically daunting mark of 400.
Few knew before the Test that Yadav has a first-class double hundred. Jayant’s first innings 84-ball 35 was followed by a 59-ball 27 when India needed those insurance runs to set a target of over 400. With last man Mohammed Shami playing freely at the other end, Jayant hit two boundaries, including a square drive which pierced the gap between point and cover.
He had already helped effect the run out of Haseeb Hameed in the first innings and got the review for leg before spot on against Moeen Ali.
What makes Ashwin such a force is how he keeps coming at the batsmen. In the second innings, that is what broke the dogged opening stance with Haseeb trapped in front. Jayant’s best came against Stokes. Skipper Virat Kohli praised his maturity. “For a young guy to come in and tell me the field he wants, it shows he knows what he is doing.”
This is the first time India fielded two off-spinners since last year’s Galle Test, which featured Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh. Ashwin now has the opportunity to forge a special relationship with a fellow off-spinner who he has known for some time. If this turns out great, Kohli needs to be lauded for risking Jayant ahead of leg-spinner Amit Mishra.