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Ishant Sharma’s seven wicket haul helped India win a Test match at Lord’s after 28 years. On Day Five alone, he picked up five wickets, all of them off short deliveries. It was a spell of hostile fast-bowling, targeting the rib-cage and making the batsmen play their shots. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about Ishant and MS Dhoni’s plan to drown England at Lord’s.
Something didn’t seem right for India after lunch on Day Five. Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma perpetually bowled short with a leg-slip, short-leg and a man on the fence. Joe Root and Matt Prior were ready for a barrage near their rib-cage. When it started, they responded with an array of hooks and pulls to milk 20 runs off the first two overs after lunch. England now needed only 126 to win and that mini-assault threatened to throw India’s plans off-track. What did MS Dhoni do in that situation? He asked Ishant to continue with those tactics.
At the post-match presentation, Ishant admitted that the credit should go to Dhoni. It was imperative that he used his height to extract that bounce and trouble the Englishmen with a hostile spell. Though Ishant did not bowl at express pace, his line was threatening as he made things difficult for England. It isn’t just about the idea; anyone can come up with a plan in the dressing room. It is the execution that matters. Ishant’s modesty may credit Dhoni for England’s predicament, but he can pat himself on the back for what has been a wonderful performance.
Let us now have a look at each of those dismissals fashioned by Ishant off the short ball:
1. Moeen Ali
Moeen Ali looked in silken touch as usual. Though he played and missed a few times and the edges off Ravindra Jadeja evaded the fielders, he looked assured for a major part and threatened an encore of his ton at Headingley against Sri Lanka. India needed that one moment of inspiration going into lunch, to lift their spirits after a tough morning. Ishant pitched it short and Moeen was in two minds. With that backlift in place, he wasn’t able to decide whether to play it or leave. Ultimately, when he decided to get out of the way, it was too late as the ball hit the bat. This picture shows how uncomfortable he was to that delivery:
2. Matt Prior
Matt Prior faced a plethora of questions ahead of this innings. With Jos Buttler waiting in the wings, Prior has been under intense pressure through the summer. His woes against the short ball have been well documented and he had fallen in the first essay while pulling a back of a length delivery. He started off positively this time and pulled one through mid-wicket for four. That shot was played by him almost above his head as he swatted it to mid-wicket. Dhoni then placed his man back at mid-wicket. Ishant bowled it short, and Prior played it straight down Murali Vijay’s throat at deep mid-wicket. Is this the end of his Test career?
3. Ben Stokes
Given all his heroics during the Ashes 2013-14, Ben Stokes came into this series with a big reputation. However, it has been a tough ride for him with the bat. Coming in at No 8 at the fall of Prior’s wicket, Stokes needed to stay in the middle, but those two ducks in this series were playing on his mind. Ishant came from over the wicket, and bowled a half-tracker, directed outside the off-stump. Stokes assessed it as an opportunity to break the shackles, but ended up playing a cross-batted hoick which was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara.
4. Joe Root
The big wicket and perhaps Ishant’s best scalp of the day. Though India had made inroads at the other end, they needed to dismiss the set-batsman Joe Root. Though India had men around the bat and a few in the deep on the leg-side, Root had managed to control his pulls and place it between the fielders. He looked in the zone to counter India’s tactics. Ishant came from round the wicket and pitched it short again, but it was a lot straighter and towards Root’s midriff. Root pulled it flat and found Stuart Binny perfectly at deep square-leg.
5. Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad wasn’t dismissed off a delivery that climbed, his fall was fashioned by a barrage of short balls. Broad was peppered with the short stuff. Some of them hit his body as well. He left a few alone but was continuously pushed back. Thus, Ishant then strayed on his pads with a back-of-a-length delivery, Broad was already on his backfoot. In the process of flicking it, he nurdled it into skipper Dhoni’s gloves.
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