A game of two halves
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Sprawled on his back, Ravichandran Ashwin swung his legs lazily in the air. Then, upright, he lunged at his toes and looked smug. The mind had already been polished with all the thinking he had done at long-off, now the physique was being sharpened.
Seconds before Ashwin's ritualistic set of warm-ups before a new spell commenced, he had spent a few minutes convincing his captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, of all that he had thought of during his idle time — regarding field positions. Alone, Ashwin pushed short-leg to a deepish short-leg position, mid-on to wide mid-on, midwicket to squarish midwicket and square-leg next to the square umpire.
For the spectators in the east stand, this unique field cluster must've looked like a football formation waiting for the whistle. Suresh Raina, umpire Steve Davis and Gautam Gambhir formed the backline; Cheteshwar Pujara and Sachin Tendulkar played central midfield. All converged towards striker Dhoni.
Watching all this patiently, batsmen Kruger van Wyk and James Franklin — the fifth wicket pair that had stabilised the initial haemorrhage — looked amused. But clearly the acting manager had thought this one through. Ashwin thinks, period.
He tossed the first ball of the 56th over wide outside off. Van Wyk, predominantly a sweeper against turn, tried guiding it through midwicket. Defender Raina blocked it at square-leg. Ball two, Ashwin dragged van Wyk further down the off-side with a wide one. Van Wyk looked leg, but a leading edge carried past Virender Sehwag at slips to the third man fence. The next one was tossed even further off, van Wyk — now almost batting on an off-stump guard — dabbed it to point. No run.
With no skills on the off-side and a pack of hounds on the leg side, van Wyk pre-meditated a block off the fourth ball. The delivery straightened before he could put deadwood on it and the leather went limp below the knee roll. Tongue out, Ashwin clapped that now famous double-clap. New Zealand's best resistance (an innings-best partnership of 55) had ended.
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