Centurion: Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was delighted after his three wickets helped India reduce South Africa to 269/6 in their first innings on the first day of the second Test match here on Saturday.
Aiden Markram (94) and Hashim Amla (82) threatened India with signs of a prospective big total. But India's bowling unit, spearheaded by Ashwin (3/90), took four wickets in the final session to show the team's intent of making a strong comeback after the defeat in the opening Test in Cape Town. The Tamil Nadu tweaker accounted for openers Markram and Dean Algar (31) and Quinton de Kock (0) to peg the hosts back. Hardik Pandya then effected two run-outs of Amla and Vernon Philander as India came back strongly into the game. "I like to think I have kept us in the game. It could have so easily been a game where they could have run away with it after the second session. I like to believe I was just dogged enough," Ashwin said at the post-match press conference.
"Within my mind, this was probably one of the relaxed days of my cricket career. I wasn't really thinking too much and delivering the ball. My only intent was to try and keep it in a particular spot. Try and deliver from different positions in the crease, and I was really enjoying it," he added. "Those wickets in the last session are valid incentive for us going into the Day 2. It was due to extraordinary work from Hardik. New ball is not doing a lot actually. If those two batsmen walked out tomorrow morning, it would have been tougher for us."
Ashwin revealed that the team was thinking of going with an all-seam attack having seen the wicket two days before the match started. But the curator reduced the greenish part of the wicket, giving Ashwin the chance to play the match. "Two days from the game it looked like we are going to play an all-seam attack. And then when we walked into the ground yesterday, it was white in colour and the grass was coming off," Ashwin said. "All of a sudden I really had to pull myself back and think I am in the game now. Today morning when we came to the ground, it looked like a wicket that was really flat and had to have a spinner in the game. I am happy with the wicket."