The 70th instance in a losing cause

Ravichandran Ashwin’s fine effort of 10 for 160 in the recent Test against Sri Lanka in Galle was in vain as the home team ran out victor. The off-spinner’s performance, his third 10-wicket haul in Tests, became the 70th instance overall for a losing side after one of its bowlers had bagged 10 wickets or more. By G. Viswanath.

Ravichandran Ashwin should have been over the moon at the conclusion of an absorbing first Test at Galle; instead he was left feeling like the pits after the home team turned the tables on an eventful fourth day. The tall off-break bowler had done enough damage (10 for 160 in the match) to put India on the road to victory. But the game-changing, dramatic turnaround caused by the big blows of Dinesh Chandimal (162 not out off 169 balls) and afterwards the bag of tricks displayed by the left arm spinner Rangana Herath spelt doom for India and Ashwin.

What mattered most as the Sri Lankans roared to a win was Herath’s terrific 7 for 48 as against Ashwin’s impressive first day analysis of 6 for 46. Looking to personally shape an overseas win, Ashwin captured 10 wickets, but his team could not cross the finishing line with honours.

Ashwin is in his fifth year for India; capped as he was in the winter of 2011 against the West Indies at the Feroz Shah Kotla. He held his own and with left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, plotted a number of home Test wins. With just one more scalp, he could have launched his debut with a 10-wicket haul, but his 3 for 81 and 6 for 47 firmly established his credentials as an adequate replacement for Harbhajan Singh. He missed the 10-wicket-feat in a match again in the same series, this time at the Wankhede Stadium (5 for 156 and 4 for 34). He did not have to wait too long; within nine months, he had the Kiwis down on their knees at the Uppal Stadium, Hyderabad, routing them with magic spells of 6 for 31 and 6 for 54. The following year, he celebrated the coveted 10-wicket haul (7 for 103 and 5 for 95) against Australia at Chepauk

While the conditions gave him sufficient rewards in India, Ashwin struggled to have the same impact on batsmen in Australia, South Africa and England, although he offered the first hints of picking up knowledge of bowling overseas, especially in the 2014 Oval Test against England. Regarded “an intelligent spinner’’ by the discerning, Ashwin met with reasonable success in the three Tests he played at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, but the one-man-spin-department did not work wonders. He showed great skills in the one-off Test against Bangladesh at Fatullah and had played the linchpin role at Galle, but cricket proved that it was a game of glorious uncertainties with Chandimal and Herath covering themselves with glory.

In the event, Ashwin’s first 10-wicket haul overseas proved his worth as the leading Indian spinner, but his team lost. India had never lost a Test when Ashwin had taken five or more wickets in an innings; so Galle turned out to be the first. He had played six Tests in Australia, two in England and one each in South Africa and Bangladesh before his 26th Test match in Sri Lanka.

He had 29 wickets from the previous overseas Tests before this fine effort of 10 for 160, but his third ten-wicket performance became the 70th instance overall for a losing side. Pakistan’s legendary left arm seamer Wasim Akram tops the list with three 10-wicket displays in a losing match and greats like Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan have suffered the ignominy twice each.

It’s not the first time though that India had lost a Test match after one of its bowlers had ended up with an impressive tally of 10 wickets. Ashwin (10 for 160 v Sri Lanka, Galle, 2015) is the 12th instance. The other 11 are: Javagal Srinath (13 for 132 v Pakistan, Kolkata, 1998-99), Bapu Nadkarni (11 for 122 v Australia, Chennai, 1964-65), Harbhajan Singh (11 for 224 v Australia, Bangalore, 2004-05), Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (11 for 235 v West Indies, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, 1966-67), Maninder Singh (11 for 126 v Pakistan, Bangalore, 1986-87), Ghulam Ahmed (11 for 130 v Australia, Kolkata, 1956-57), Kapil Dev (10 for 135 v West Indies, Ahmedabad, 1983-84), Venkatesh Prasad (10 for 153 v South Africa, Kingsmead, 1996-97), Erapally Prasanna (10 for 174 v Australia, Chennai, 1969-70), Bishan Bedi (10 for 194 v Australia, Perth, 1977-78) and Subash Gupte (10 for 223 v West Indies, Kanpur, 1958-59).

Australia has a list of 17 instances with a pre-war double by off spinner Hugh Trumble taking 12 for 89 (1896) and 12 for 173 (1902) at The Oval against England and still ending up on the losing side and the legendary Shane Warne meeting the same fate taking 12 for 128 (v South Africa in 1993-94) and 10 for 162 (v England at Edgbaston in 2005). Among the other famous Australians in this list are Merv Hughes, Alan Davidson, Clarrie Grimmett, Frederick Spofforth, Charles Turner, Geoff Dymock, Jason Krejza, Mitchell Johnson, Geoff Lawson, Ray Bright, Neil Hawke, Rodney Hogg and Herbert Hordern. It was said of Trumble: “His run up was sidelong and insinuating, with his neck craned like a gigantic bird.’’

England’s list has the deadly Sydney Barnes, Tom Richardson (twice, 13 for 244 v Australia, Old Trafford, 1896 and 10 for 204 v Australia, Sydney, 1897-98), Bill Lockwood, Nick Cook, Angus Fraser, Ian Botham, Derek Underwood, Maurice Tate, Ryan Sidebottom, George Lohmann and Ken Farnes.

New Zealand’s list has Daniel Vettori (twice, 12 for 149 v Australia, Auckland, 1999-00 and 10 for 183 v Sri Lanka, Wellington, 2006-07), Chris Pringle, Tim Southee and Jack Cowie.

Pakistan’s Wasim Akram features in such a record an incredible three times (11 for 110 v West Indies, Antigua, 1999-00, 11 for 160 v Australia, Melbourne, 1989-90 and 11 for 128 v New Zealand, Dunedin, 1984-85). The other Pakistanis are Saeed Ajmal (twice, 11 for 111 v West Indies, Providence, 2011 and 10 for 147 v South Africa, Cape Town, 2012-13), Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Iqbal Qasim and Saqlain Mushtaq.

The South Africans in this list are Alfred Hall, Sydney Burke, Charles Llewellyn and Makhaya Ntini and the Sri Lankans are Muttiah Muralitharan (twice, 11 for 212 v Australia, Galle, 2003-04, and 10 for 115 v England, Edgbaston, 2006) and Ajantha Mendis.

Among the West Indians are, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Corey Colleymore, Alf Valentine, Gerry Gomez, Courtney Walsh and Shane Shillingford.

Paul Strang is the lone Zimbabwean.

A defeat after a 10-wicket haul has hurt the right hand bowlers (51 instances) more than the left hand ones (19).