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Ashwin works hard to make an impact

Worcestershire 363 (D'Oliveira 93, Cox 56*, Barnard 46) and 10 for 0 lead Gloucestershire 258 (Taylor 101*, Barnard 4-23) by 115 runs

He probably wasn't the off-spinning all-rounder they had come to see, but Jack Taylor produced the key contribution to defy Worcestershire at New Road.

The day was meant to be about R Ashwin. The pitch had been prepared for him - this is the third time it has been used this season - and, by the time he was introduced into the attack, just before lunch on the second day, the stage was set for a key contribution.

It was not quite to be. Nicely though he bowled and often as he troubled the batsmen - initially at least - Ashwin was forced to work hard to make an impact. The pitch, though dry, offered him very little - he described it as "extremely slow" with an expression that made it clear that was no compliment - and, even when the edge was taken, the fielders struggled to cling on to some tough chances. There was no lack of effort and no lack of variations, but there really wasn't much help for him here.

Maybe Worcestershire missed a trick with their selection. Had they included one of their left-arm seamers - either Jack Shantry or George Scrimshaw - their footmarks may have created a bit more rough with which Ashwin could work. As if was, they selected Pat Brown, a right-arm seamer, and he did not bowl a ball in the innings.

With gentle rain falling on and off throughout the day - "I signed-up for the cold," Ashwin smiled - holding the unfamiliar Duke's ball was demanding and only one of his 27.5 overs was a maiden. And, if his first wicket, that of Gareth Roderick caught and bowled by one that was tossed up a little slower, would have pleased him, the wicket of Craig Miles came when the batsman clipped a full-toss to mid-wicket. Kieran Noema-Barnett might consider himself a little unfortunate to be adjudged leg before, too.

But Ashwin is here to learn. He is here not for any financial reward - there is little county cricket can offer him in that regard these days - but because he wants to improve himself. He wants to learn to bowl in unfamiliar conditions (he has played only two Tests in England) and with unfamiliar balls. He wants to return next year and play a key role in helping India defeat England in a Test series. It speaks volumes for his character that, despite being placed No. 3 in the Test bowling rankings, he is prepared to go to such lengths to improve.

"It's not just about next year," he told ESPNcricinfo. "It's always been a dream to play county cricket. I grew-up watching it on TV in India and it has always meant a lot. Spinners have come before and told me it is a must-do experience. I was being rested from a series [against Sri Lanka], so I thought I might as well come here to get experience.

"But yes, next year was in the back of my mind and the back of the mind of the team management back home. With the pace with which the international cricket calendar is set-up, you don't have a long time to prepare. That might even cost you a Test match. So these experiences can be banked upon and, if you can learn faster - which I pride myself upon - the results can come a bit faster."

The conditions shouldn't have been especially tough. But for all the use this surface has had - one four-day match between the England and India U19 sides and one T20 match - it hardly appears to have deteriorated. At this stage, it appears more to have died though it remains possible it will deteriorate over the next couple of days. Ashwin could yet win Worcestershire this match in the second innings and, by doing say, help them take a decent stride towards promotion.

Either way, he was sanguine about the missed chances - none of which were easy - and, was able to see the bigger picture both in terms of his own development and his team's position in the game.

"They put down a few catches," Ashwin shrugged. "But catches go down. It is part of the game. They are fielding close in to me for the first time so I would not blame them.

"I wanted to work on exploiting the rough, on using angles and on using a greasy ball. My bowling figures aren't so important; it's about making a difference for the team and challenging myself to bowl in tough conditions."

How long he is here remains to be seen. There remains a possibility he will be recalled to play in the limited-overs games against Australia which could reduce his involvement to as little as two Championship matches: this one and the one next week at Trent Bridge. Worcestershire, desperate to push on and achieve promotion, dearly want him to stay until the end of the season and play four matches in total.

"I could be called to play in the Australia series," Ashwin admitted. "But I have indicated to Bumpy [Steve Rhodes, the Worcestershire direct of cricket] that I will be available for all four games. As of now, there are no communication channels open but they will be shortly so I'll probably get a clearer idea after the Sri Lanka series."

When Ashwin took his first wicket, it seemed Worcestershire might cruise to victory. Gloucestershire were 93 for five at the time and the follow-on mark - 214 - looked distant. Ed Barnard, who finished with career-best first-class figures, had helped dismantle the top-order with a fine spell that peaked with the wicket of Cameron Bancroft, who lost his off stump to a beauty that was angled in, pitched and held its own. While not especially quick - he probably bowls in the high 70s in terms of miles per hour; not unlike a young Chris Woakes - Barnard maintains an immaculate line and length and gains just enough seam movement to trouble batsmen.

But then came Taylor. While his overall first-class record may be modest - he came into this match averaging just 31.88 - his record against Worcestershire is outstanding. He has now scored four centuries against them in four successive Championship matches and averages 85.33 against them in first-class cricket. For a man who has scored only six first-class centuries in total, it is a remarkable statistic. He's made a couple of centuries against them in second XI cricket, too. Only Wally Hammond (with six) and Charles Dacre (with five), of Gloucestershire players, have scored more first-class centuries against Worcestershire.

While he survived one strong leg before shout in the 80s - George Rhodes, who bowled his own off-spin very nicely, was the unfortunate bowler - this was a deserved century. He picked Ashwin's variations - especially the delivery that leaves the right-hander - used the crease intelligently to nudge and nurdle and put away the bad ball without fuss. While the first innings deficit was still substantial - 105 - it is not impossible he could have an even greater impact on the game with his off-spin in the fourth innings. He has, at least, kept his side in the game. Nobody else managed more than 33.

Earlier Worcestershire lost their final three first-innings wickets for just three runs as Liam Norwell, who dislocated his finger on Monday and had it re-set at hospital, finished with four wickets.

But in the grand scheme of things, perhaps the most significant aspect of the day was Ashwin soaking up the experience. While some will bemoan the fact that he has been given an opportunity to gain such knowledge - and it is true, he may well punish England with it next year - the smart English players will be watching and learning everything he does. It can only help them to test themselves against him and watch how he operates. It is especially telling that Moeen Ali nominally at least, a teammate for a few weeks, has already been on the phone offering his help and arranging a meeting.

From a spectator's perspective, it is simply a delight to see a terrific cricketer at close-quarters in the county game. Worcestershire are not the only ones who are lucky to have him.