On the eve of the semifinal against South Africa, Ravichandran Ashwin was confident that he was bowling at his best. He had taken seven wickets in the tournament, opened the bowling and had also been economical. On pitches that suited the spinners in Mirpur, the Indian slow bowlers were difficult to score off as well as a threat to the batsman. Ashwin spoke like a man who knew he could do no wrong.
“I feel that I’m probably at the top of my bowling game. When I reach that phase, I pretty much don’t practice at all. That’s a phase I’m in right now. The ball is landing exactly where I want it,” Ashwin said.
It may not have happened right away for Ashwin, but it did not take too long for him to get it right either. Ashwin came around the wicket to opener Hashim Amla. The first delivery was a wide down the leg side. However, the next one was a beauty. It was the carom ball which Amla didn’t pick. When it landed outside leg-stump, the opener didn’t account for the turn that Ashwin had generated with the flick of a finger. The delivery passed the closed blade of Amla’s bat and knocked over the off-stump.
JP Duminy, the left-hander, found it difficult to tackle Ashwin. He did not score a run off the first four balls he faced from the Indian off-spinner. Only one run was conceded off the over and a wicket fell.
Ashwin was brought back into the attack eight overs later. This time he was bowling around the wicket again to South African skipper FAF du Plessis. The South African skipper was well-set and if Ashwin erred in line or length, more so as he was coming around the wicket, he could have been made to look silly.
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Ashwin tried to set up Du Plessis for the same carrom ball through the over. The first delivery was fired down the leg side but turned to hit the thigh pad of Du Plessis. The next was wide and down leg again and it was smashed over long-on for a six. After conceding two singles, Ashwin came up with another wicket-taking delivery. It was the carom ball again and Du Plessis played too early and missed. The ball hit his body and crashed into the stumps.
The most telling blow was the wicket of the dangerous AB de Villiers in the 16th over. Again, Ashwin tossed it up outside leg and though de Villiers connected, the revolutions Ashwin put on the delivery made the ball go higher rather than longer and it landed in the hands of Rohit Sharma at long-leg. At that point, Ashwin’s figures were 3-0-12-3, priceless in a semifinal of a World T20.