Ravichandran Ashwin took 7 wickets as India bowled South Africa out for 431. With the 7-wicket haul Ashwin took himself on the doorsteps of equalling Muttiah Muralitharan’s world record.
Ashwin, who has 349 wickets to his name, needs pick up 1 more wicket in this match to equal Murali’s world record. The Sri Lankan spin wizard also is the all-time highest wicket taker in Test matches with 800 scalps to his credit. Murali had achieved the milestone in his 66th Test match back in 2001 against Bangladesh. Ashwin too is making his 66th appearance in the purest format of the game.
Ashwin got overnight batsman Keshav Maharaj out for nine and then trapped Kagiso Rabada for 15 as the Proteas conceded a 71-run lead in response to India’s 502 for seven declared.
With the second innings on a fifth day track still remaining, it is very likely that Ashwin will equal Muralitharan’s record. Ashwin in fact has the chance of beating Murali in terms of balls bowled to get to 350 Test scalps.
Murali had taken 3605.2 overs to take 250 Test wickets. Ashwin, on the other hand has only bowled 3108.2 overs so far. The Sri Lanka legend however, has the edge over Ashwin in all other aspects of bowling – average, economy and runs conceded.
To put his Ashwin’s performance into perspective, he is set to beat Anil Kumble as India’s fastest to 350 Test scalps by 11 Tests. Kumble had taken 77 Tests to reach to that milestone.
The 33-year-old, who has been playing only one format for India since July 2017, last played the Adelaide Test from December 6 to 10, the first of the four on the tour of Australia.
To his disappointment, Ashwin did not feature in the playing eleven in the following Test series against the West Indies in August-September when India only played one spinner in Ravindra Jadeja. “To stay away from cricket itself was very tough for me. In order to substitute, I played whatever games I got. I tried and made opportunity for myself to go and play some county cricket (for Nottinghamshire). I tried and played the TNPL as much as I could, played some league cricket in Chennai,” he said.
“It was very important to tick those numbers off because that is essentially where I came from. Going back and playing there is probably the best thing that could have happened,” said Ashwin, who when asked about time away from national duty.