India has drawn level in the ongoing three-match Test series against Sri Lanka in the Lankan Islands. If India can outplay the Lankans in the third and final Test match, which is set to start from Friday, 28 August at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo, they will end the 22-year wait of winning a Test series in Sri Lanka against the hosts. This can only be possible if Indian tweaker Ravichandran Ashwin continues with his sublime form.
Sri Lankan batsmen have found it difficult to play Ashiwn in the series so far, just like they had faced earlier against Pakistan's leggie Yasir Shah (who claimed 24 wickets in three Test matches as well).
Ashwin claimed 17 wickets at an incredible average of 16.35. This also includes two five-wicket hauls in two Test matches respectively. Sri Lanka, skipper Angelo Mathews has opined that they will have to find a way to score against Ashwin instead of defending all six balls from his over.
"Since the last Test, we talked a lot about Ashwin. He is very accurate. Yasir Shah was also accurate. You need to be positive against them - look for the balls that you can hit rather than trying to defend all six. That's the approach we wanted to take towards this game and we just couldn't do that. Once again we struggled," Mathews said in an interview to ESPN Cricinfo.
Every bowler is quite different. We have a lot of left-handers in our line-up and it makes it easier for Ashwin to try and be very aggressive against them. So we need to look to score runs rather than stay at the wicket. We need to find out a way to counterattack him. We can't just hang around. He will bowl the odd good ball anyway in an over, so we need to score runs. We will try and do that in the next game," he said.
According to the Sri Lankan skipper, it was not only Ashwin but the Indian bowlers were also exerting pressure on the Lankan batsmen from the other end on the final day of the second Test match at the P Sara Oval in Colombo. Their aggressive approach to counter the spin of Ashwin and other bowlers failed miserably and thus the hosts lost six wickets in the first session of Day 5, thereby helping India to draw level in the Test series.
Mathews felt that they will have to maintain an aggressive and positive approach against Ashwin and is hopeful that this plan would work for them. They had similar plans against Shah but that too did not last for long in the series against Pakistan. It will be interesting to see how Sri Lankan batsmen handle Ashwin and his tweakers in the final Test match of the series.
"We didn't bat for the time to be honest, because the wicket was pretty demanding and it was the fourth innings. Ashwin was putting a lot of pressure from one end, and from the other end the rest of the bowlers put a lot of pressure on us. We couldn't just hang in. I think the approach would be the same - to score runs on whatever day you bat on or the innings we bat in. We just have to plan to score so that you put your negative thoughts away and keep going. That was our intention. But 413 wasn't a realistic target to be achieved on the final day of a Test match. But it's just that we wanted to approach it in a positive way. At least get some positive thoughts and go into the next game," Mathews added.