Closing out a high-pressure chase, with a top-two finish in play, however, isn’t in Ashwin’s aisle. He’s not a power hitter like Russell or his Royals teammate Shimron Hetmyer. His hitting style is more suited to chipping the ball over the infield and taking advantage of power-play restrictions.
Ashwin came out at bat in 12th in pursuit of the Royals by 151 to give Hetmyer and Riyan Parag ideal entry points. However, with Hetmyer digging in while trying to break the bigger boundary for 6 from seven balls and Parag only going one ball in the end, Ashwin picked up the pace, with an unbeaten 40 from 23 balls, to bring the Royals home. .
He rushed out of the crease on the third delivery he faced from Moeen Ali and pumped it on the shorter leg side boundary for six. The Super Kings, however, fought back thanks to legpinner Prashant Solanki who dared Hetmyer to clear the bigger side and made him take a deep midwicket hold. At this stage, the Royals needed 39 out of 22 balls, with four potential No.11s – Trent Boult, Yuzvendra Chahal, Prasidh Krishna and Obed McCoy – in the dugout.
Ashwin knew Solanki would now hide the ball out of his reach and deny him access to the shorter leg-side boundary. Ashwin, however, moved on, brought it within reach and swept a flat six against the turn. When Mukesh Choudhary blundered too much, Ashwin went under length and cleared the midwicket boundary again for his third six – the most he’s hit in a T20 match.
Game over for Super Kings.
“I’ve been playing slog sweep for a while,” Ashwin said. “I trust sweeps more regularly since the test match in Chennai. I think it’s an important shot. I’m someone who times the ball well, so if I play the slog sweep, I feel like I can do the bowler’s bowl at my lap I worked hard [on my batting]. I read the game well and I know the ebbs and flows of the game; I have always supported myself on this front. Unfortunately, I’m not blessed with much power. So consciously I worked on my stick and my technique.”
“The position is a well-calculated decision,” Ashwin said. “DY Patil is a place where there is a stiff rebound and so I used that position to use the rebound there. Hand extension, top hand use are some of the other areas I I worked. You work on a number of things, but only if you succeed, you can follow that and move on. So, I’m happy [it worked out].”
It was Ashwin who previously set up the game for the Royals with the ball. After conceding two fours and a six to a rampaging Moeen on his first 16-point run, Ashwin bounced back to trap Devon Conway lbw with a slider too full for the sweep. Despite this costly opening, Ashwin finished with excellent numbers of 4-0-28-1.
“In T20 cricket, a bowler’s accuracy is very underrated,” Ashwin said. “Whatever we think, we should be able to execute it. If we combine precision and execution, we can always hold our own against any batsman. Half of bowlers struggle when they can’t execute a shot at the end of the day Another major aspect that I have worked on is the intensity of the ball.
“Sometimes when you concede early runs, your bowling can be flat and you can tentatively throw the ball. These things can happen in T20 cricket, but you have to increase the intensity of each ball in T20 cricket and maintain accuracy. My repetition of bowling volume is important to me, and some hitters can’t choose my subtle variations. It gives me the best chance. I won’t think about the hitter – whether it’s MS Dhoni or Moeen Ali. No matter what I practiced yesterday, I can come and bowl today. I have that gift and I want to use it permanently in T20 cricket.”
Ashwin is a gift that keeps on giving, with the bat too. Beware the versatile Ashwin, Gujarat Titans.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo