Ishant Sharma’s (celebrating) inspired spell to dismiss Ricky Ponting has gone into Indian folklore as one of the greatest spells overseas © Getty Images
Ishant Sharma’s spell of seven for 74 helped India beat England at Lord’s after 28 years. Ishant not only drowned England, but humiliated them with an exhibition of supreme seam bowling, targeting their rib-cage. In part two of this series, Nishad Pai Vaidya revisits victories at Nottingham, Perth and Durban in the 2000s.
In the first part of this series, we revisited India’s victories at Melbourne, Lord’s, Leeds and Johannesburg, where Indian seamers made a huge impact. While the first three came in the 1980s, the one at Johannesburg came almost 20 years later when India had found a new generation of fast bowlers. In this article, we shall look back at how that ilk helped India script three more victories away from him, in conditions where one may not have favoured them to emerge with wins.
England vs India: Trent Bridge, July 27-31, 2007
Result: India win by seven wickets
This was an Indian team with its golden generation, most of them playing fantastic cricket after the nadir of the 2007 World Cup. In the first Test at Lord’s, the weather gods saved India from certain defeat with them a wicket away from conceding a lead in the series on Day Five. But, when things moved to Nottingham, India put England in to bat in wet conditions. Zaheer Khan got into the act with a remarkable spell and combined with the other bowlers to bowl England out for 198. India then piled the runs with a complete team-effort to put up 481. Sachin Tendulkar got 91 and Sourav Ganguly was dismissed for 79, both falling due to dubious calls by umpire Simon Taufel. But, the character of the match changed when Zaheer spotted a few jellybeans on the pitch, which were allegedly thrown by the English fielders. He had a war of words with the slip cordon and was pumped up for payback.
England walked out more determined, but Zaheer kept finding a way to trouble them. Alastair Cook was done in by some beautiful swing bowling. Andrew Strauss edged one to the wicketkeeper. RP Singh also did his bit with a couple of crucial wickets. But, India took firm control when Zaheer dismissed the centurion Michael Vaughan. The ball hit his pads and then rolled onto the stumps. Ian Bell was then dismissed first ball and then Paul Collingwood was caught behind as Zaheer bagged five. Anil Kumble cleaned the tail again and India were left with 73 to win, which was achieved with seven wickets to spare.
Australia vs India: Perth, January 16-19, 2008
Result: India win by 72 runs
In terms of the adversities faced by the Indian team on multiple counts, this win should outrank the others. The 2-0 scoreline in favour of Australia was the least of their worries, but the Monkeygate scandal had made headlines and put the Indian team in a spot. The Australians were still the world champions, but were condemned for their behavior. Plus, no one gave India a chance to last at Perth, supposedly the fastest surface in the world. Australia brought in Shaun Tait, to bolster their pace battery.
India batted first and managed to score a decent 330, led by Rahul Dravid’s 93. But, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan combined to destroy the top-order. Australia were reduced to 65 for five at one stage. Ishant began his duels with Ricky Ponting by having him caught with one that climbed and surprised him. Though Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist fought, Australia were bowled out for 212. India were left with a sizeable lead but needed to make it count. At 125 for five, things looked bleak, but VVS Laxman turned it around, shepherded the tail and took India’s lead past 400.
In the second innings, Australia looked determined with Ponting and Michael Hussey in the centre. But, Ishant set alight the stage. In a remarkable spell of bowling, Ponting was made to look ordinary. He played and missed, was hit on the body a couple of times and was completely unsettled. Ishant was then persisted for one more over and he finally got the edge off Ponting’s bat. Australia’s fight did not stop there, but India continued to get wickets and won the game by 72 runs. Though the spinners chipped in during the second innings, it was the seamers who set it up. Irfan won the man of the match.
South Africa vs India: Durban, December 26-29, 2010
Result: India win by 87 runs
India were left stunned after the first Test as South Africa wrapped up an innings victory. The only consolation in that match was Tendulkar’s historic 50th Test ton. The Indian bowling, sans Zaheer, had little to show and were battered by Jacques Kallis and company. But, come the second Test on a green surface at Durban, India were bolstered by the return of Zaheer. On a tricky surface, they managed only 205, a total that did not look enough. However, Zaheer turned it on by denting the top order, and Harbhajan Singh wrapped up the tail to bowl South Africa out for 131.
A lead of 74 was not too big and India were tested by the formidable South African pace battery. VVS Laxman’s remarkable 96 took India to 228 and left South Africa with a tricky 303 to chase. This time, it was S Sreesanth who joined the party. He snared Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Kallis, men who were touted to take South Africa through. The wicket of Kallis will remain etched in memory as a batsman of his class was left fending at one that rose sharply. He was completely in the air as he fended it with his gloves.
Zaheer too contributed with three wickets as India wrapped up the game with 87 runs to spare.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)