The South African tail on Saturday made India work hard to end the Proteas innings but R Ashwin set the record straight saying that it did not frustrate him.
“I don’t get frustrated and don’t want to get frustrated either as I am happy to be bowling again. Whoever bats again, I am happy to keep bowling at them,” Ashwin said.
India had reduced South Africa to 162/8 after declaring their innings at 601/5 on the back of Virat Kohli’s unbeaten 254. However, Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander put up a 109-run stand to stretch South Africa to 275. While Maharaj, despite a sore shoulder scored 72, Philander remained unbeaten on 44.
Ashwin, who picked four wickets, conceding 69 runs, dismissed the last two South African batsmen and helped India secure a 326-run lead at stumps on day three of the second Test at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Saturday.
Ashwin was wholesome in his praise for the South African lower-order and made it clear that “the myth of tail-enders is over-stated”.
“I think the myth of tail-enders is over-stated and when someone bats well, he bats well. Nowadays, nobody is really a mug with the bat. In our team also, everybody bats pretty well till No 11,” said Ashwin.
“Like I said, it is a good pitch and Philander batted beautifully. His defensive technique to spin and fast bowling was wonderful. He played with soft hands and the bat face was slightly running down,” added Ashwin.
India, having secured a 326-run lead, can enforce the follow-on. When asked what the team is planning to do, Ashwin said it will be skipper Virat Kohli’s prerogative.
“At least, I haven’t thought about the follow-on. I think the captain will decide overnight on what he should be doing. It is also important, how bowlers recover tomorrow morning,” he said.
Ashwin also termed Pune wicket as a typical Indian track “This is a typically Indian pitch from my experience. These are the kind of pitches you tend to get in first-class cricket, so I don’t see why it’s not a typical Indian pitch,” said Ashwin.
Ashwin also lauded India’s top three – Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara – for the way in which they dealt with the South African attack when and negotiated the first two sessions on the opening day when there was something on offer for the pacers.
“I thought (Kagiso) Rabada bowled beautifully but Rohit, Pujara and Mayank negotiated them really well in the morning (and afternoon). They kept beating the bat,” Ashwin said.
In contrast, Indian pacer bowled well and made an early inroads into the South African middle-order later in the second day and on the morning of the third day.
“Last evening, the way (Mohammed) Shami and Umesh (Yadav) ran in was extremely special. Because the way Shami was getting the ball to carry over to the keeper, it was a pleasant sight to see as it doesn’t happen often in India,” said Ashwin.
“The pace attack of ours have completely earned the right of doing such things and we aren’t surprised about it anymore,” added Ashwin.
Ashwin also praised Wriddhiman Saha for his gloverwork. The Indian wicketkeeper took two catches, including an air-borne catch to dismiss Theunis de Bruyne off Umesh Yadav’s bowling.
“It’s a no-brainer to say that Saha is one of the best going around. I have hardly seen him miss anything from the rough and today you saw how he took Rabada’s (missed) cover drive. It just indicates what good set of hands he has got,” said Ashwin.
“Saha has also got great composure too and you can’t really rule him out with the bat either. He has had some handy contributions for the team. He is a great character and great keeper to have in the team,” concluded Ashwin.