It’s odd enough for someone with three Ranji Trophy triple centuries to lead the ICC Test bowling rankings. But Ravindra Jadeja has always been a man of many parts. (India vs Australia, day 2 Blog)
Not having scored a Test century makes him an unfair target for critics. And when he happens to get a five-wicket haul, the pitch is often credited more than him. (India vs Australia: scorecard, day 2)
The third Test in Ranchi should put a stop to that for a while after Jadeja almost single-handedly prevented Australia from batting India out of the Test. His 5/124 was his third five-wicket innings haul in the last five Tests.
This pitch is in contrast to the rank turners laid out in Pune and Bangalore for the last two matches. It is a flat deck where batsmen can dig in if they have the requisite skills to adjust to the variable bounce. There were some roughs created by the batsmen’s and pacers’ foot-holes but a bowler still needed perseverance to keep hitting that. Only Jadeja was able to do that consistently.
Not only did he bowl the most overs --- he bowled 49.3 overs to R Ashwin’s 34 (1/114) --- and maidens, Jadeja also finished with the lowest economy at 2.5. He produced a variety of straighter ones, flatter balls and loopy deliveries that lured batsmen to a front-foot shot only to deceive them with bounce or spin. And then there was Jadeja’s accuracy.
There was a slice of luck involved with David Warner’s wicket on Thursday --- a full toss played back --- but Jadeja’s statistics, especially against Australia skipper Steve Smith, show how accurate he was throughout the innings.
Smith was the most comfortable against India’s bowling. But he still had only a strike rate of 37 against Jadeja, as opposed to his overall 49.3. Out of the 158 deliveries Smith faced against Jadeja, 116 were dots, and only four boundaries were scored off him.
The ball that goes away is probably more dangerous than the one that moves in but by dismissing a dangerous Matthew Wade, who was intent on sweeping him often, Jadeja showed how much planning goes into his deliveries, though he runs through his overs in less than two minutes.
The one that got rid of Wade didn’t spin as much as he would have thought though it hit the rough. But the delivery that dismissed Glenn Maxwell (104) spun enough to get a healthy outside edge. That dismissal was important as Australia were looking to break free after Maxwell had completed his century.
Australia pace bowler Pat Cummins was out of his depth against Jadeja and so was Nathan Lyon, who was drawn into a front-foot defence only to find the ball bounce more than usual. It gave Jadeja an eighth career five-wicket haul, but Smith’s scalp would have been the ideal way to finish off a top bowling performance.
Jadeja didn’t get it but he ensured Smith’s run was halted anyhow, courtesy a fabulous back-flick to hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end to run out Josh Hazlewood. It reminded one of MS Dhoni’s tricks.
It also highlighted the 28-year-old’s fielding prowess. He had produced a direct hit earlier, but the batsman was just in, but Jadeja was too quick for Hazlewood.