India spinner R Ashwin played a match-saving innings against Australia in the fourth Test at SCG with his batting partner Hanuma Vihari. Ashwin, after a memorable draw on January 11, recalled a similar knock in an Under-22 match against Hyderabad.
Ashwin, who was playing for Tamil Nadu, said they had to chase 305 runs in 78 overs on a tough day-four pitch. The opposition had planned to humiliate them and the close-in fielders were making it tougher to bat with their sledging.
“I can recall similar incidents from another match. It was an Under-22 game between Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad in Vizag from 2007/08. You might wonder if there’s any comparison between the two, but it was pretty intense,” Ashwin said on his YouTube channel.
“We conceded a lead of around 75 runs in the first innings. They were sledging us heavily in the first innings. Sledging as in, they got personal as well. ‘Are you even a player? Just because you took wickets and scored runs against Goa and Kerala, you consider yourself a cricketer?’ We had a bit of rivalry against some of their players. It became a one-on-one battle after a point. Add to that, we conceded a first-innings lead, so it was a bitter pill to swallow.
“They smashed 140 runs by evening. We couldn’t understand anything, and before we could recover in the next day, they set us a target of 305 runs in 78 overs on a deteriorating fourth-day wicket as if to challenge us.
“It was a one on one battle. Their intention was to humiliate us. To have men around the bat and sledge us when we come to bat.
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“Our captain said we should try and draw the game, but I felt instinctive that we should attack and put them in the backfoot.
“I told the team in the huddle – are they even a team? If you look at the ability, we are far better than them. So, let’s go for it. We should either leave as champions or go down losing. Why play for 2 points?”
“The captain and coach were shocked but the players bought the idea. Everyone started attacking. Suddenly, it went to the last 15 overs where we needed 70 runs and we had 3 wickets. It was getting darker, and the umpires offered us the lights. But we insisted we play on. They bowled bouncers, but the fortune was favoring us. In the end, we needed 8 runs from 6 balls with two wickets in hand. I was batting with Yo Mahesh. I told Yo Mahesh, I’ll slog – and if I get out, you ask for bad light and let’s go with two points. But Yo Mahesh insisted we go for the win. I couldn’t even see the ball but I slogged, and it went for a six, and we won the game.”
The Tamil Nadu players decided to give it back to the Hyderabad players after the win. Things got heated up and the match referee had to intervene. “We circled the players and mocked them and I still can’t believe it did not turn into a fight. The match referee took all 22 players aside and asked ‘what are you guys doing’ I know about the high-flying intent and stuff. But you guys have to be responsible’. He spoke to me and said ‘you are already into the next level playing Ranji Trophy and you shouldn’t engage in this stuff’.
“The seed that you plant today, reap you all the benefits tomorrow,” Ashwin said.
After the win, Ashwin had said he took inspiration from South Africa batsman Faf du Plessis’ knock at Adelaide in 2012. “I just kept telling myself if I can keep dead-batting everything like Faf du Plessis did in Adelaide in 2012, I can give myself a good chance,” said Ashwin in an interview to BCCI.tv after the match.
“Like Ravi [Shastri] bhai would say, the penny hasn’t dropped. So, we can’t really say how we feel. Entirely, I can’t explain how I am feeling but it was really, really special. I think both of us went numb and blank for a while. In fact, we didn’t celebrate it at the end because we didn’t know what to make of it — because we were so channelized on facing a particular bowler and keep dropping and keep dropping and dead-batting it.”