Ishant Sharma’s electric spell at Lord’s against England scripts golden chapter of Indian cricket
Ishant Sharma finished with figures of seven for 74 © Getty Images
By Arunabha Sengupta
Lord’s: Jul 21, 2014
After lunch, Ishant Sharma came steaming in from the Pavilion end, eyes fiery, hair flowing, working up a furious pace. And England pulled themselves into the deep dark pits of disaster. In a spectacular passage of play, the most experienced Indian paceman performed the unprecedented feat of bouncing out opponents on a foreign wicket.
The Indian gameplan was clear. Mohammed Shami bowled the first over after lunch and dug it in short. A short leg, leg-slip, and two men deep in the leg boundary stood for the fend or top-edge. Joe Root and Matt Prior pulled a couple of singles. Shami bounced again, and Root pulled between long leg and deep square for four. Shami switched to ‘round the wicket, the leg slip walked across to the right of Dhoni. It was short again, and Prior pulled it forward of square for four. It was exciting stuff, and tactics many found questionable.
Ishant came in from the other end, and Prior cut the first ball for four. The short bowling continued and the two batsmen continued to pull. Root pulled for one and Prior for four. The first two overs after lunch had gone for 20.
And Ravindra Jadeja was back to bowl the third over after the break. It was perhaps to hasten the new ball along. It was never taken.
The short bowling persisted from Ishant. Three men stood in an arc between deep mid-wicket and long leg. Both the batsmen pulled and got singles along the ground. And then, in what seemed to be the last delivery before the new ball, Prior pulled one straight down the throat of Murali Vijay at deep mid-wicket. He had made an entirely horizontal batted 12 off 11 balls. The ploy after lunch had paid off. It was 198 for six.
Ben Stokes came in. The ball remained old, Ishant pitched short again, Root played a streaky pull for a single, and then Stokes essayed the stroke. The ball went skywards to wide mid-on. Puajara waited for an eternity as time stood still. And then the ball came down in his clasp. 201 for seven.
Two balls passed in uncertainty, and then it was Root who pulled, this time in the air. By now, all the leg side fielders were just waiting for the skier. It went to Stuart Binny at deep square leg. Root dropped his bat in disgust, but had no option but to pick it up and trudge back. What could have been a match winning hundred had been transformed into a gallant but futile attempt. Three wickets had come in half an hour. Ishant had taken six.
Two fidgety overs followed, with Jadeja keeping a probing line, the balls from the other end continuing to be short and directed at the throat. And then Ishant produced another short one. Stuart Broad tried to swivel it to the leg. The top edge carried it over Dhoni for a boundary on one bounce. Two balls later, he bounced again, there was another swivel and Dhoni flung himself to the leg side to give Ishant his seventh wicket. 216 for nine.
James Anderson walked out, far earlier than he had expected, to join Liam Plunkett. Ishant had taken four for nine off 21 balls since lunch. He walked away after the over, breathing heavily and stood with his hands on his knees at mid-off. But, no one could take the ball away from his clasp in the midst of this fascinating spell.
The following over saw Liam Plumkett survive a huge appeal for leg before from Jadeja. Ishant bounced again. James Anderson fended, it just about eluded the forward short-leg. Drinks were taken at 222 for nine. Thus far, everyone in the commentary box had been adamant that the seamer should be put on from the Nursery end. And here was Ishant, with seven wickets, all from the supposed ‘wrong end.’
The sun set on this glorious Test match in a splendid saga of poetic justice. The third ball after the break, bowled by Jadeja, was pushed forward into the vacant offside. The England No 11 set off for a run. Plunkett remained rooted. And Jadeja sprinted across to pick up from the short cover area and threw down the stumps. It was perhaps retribution for all that had taken place in Trent Bridge. The Indian celebration at the end of the match was worth travelling miles to see.
The Indians had pulled off their first overseas victory since 2011. Well, in some ways England pulled themselves into the hole. The last six wickets had tumbled in 12.3 overs for 50 runs.
India had triumphed by 95 runs, their first overseas victory in 16 Tests, their second ever win at Lord’s. It had come on a green top after they had been seven down for 145 on the first day. It will remain a golden chapter in the history of Indian cricket.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)