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India vs England, 2nd Test at Lord’s: Ishant Sharma’s brilliant spell

Ishant Sharma celebrates the dismissal of Ben Stokes © Getty Images
Ishant Sharma celebrates the dismissal of Ben Stokes © Getty Images

Jul 22, 2014 

He was a teenager when Greg Chappell, then the India coach, wanted to summon him as a replacement towards the tail end of India’s 2006-07 tour of South Africa. This did not happen. But the promise the tall and lanky Ishant Sharma displayed when he famously rendered such a torrid time to the then Australian captain Ricky Ponting and master batsman at Perth a year later had, perhaps, not entirely been fulfilled until now.

Every five wicket haul in Test cricket is creditable. It is probably worth that much more if a quicker bowler registers this on relatively unhelpful fourth innings conditions, when the juice in the pitch has oozed out; that, too, to convincingly close out a match.

This is precisely what unfolded in Ishant posting his career-best figures of seven for 74 and India recording only their second win in a Test match at Lord’s – home of cricket – in 82 years.

The gap between the two successes is 28 years. The last time India achieved this was under Kapil Dev, who led India to their most emphatic victory in England till date, 2-0 in a three-Test series, which could well have been a brown-wash had the final encounter at Edgbaston, Birmingham not been interrupted by rain.

Since his Test debut against Bangladesh in 2007, the Delhi pace bowler hasn’t quite set the Yamuna on fire. He has undoubtedly had his purple patches; but he has over this period clearly lost pace, without mastering the skill to swing the ball. Admittedly, injuries have plagued his development.

Ishant passed through a bleak phase after his impressive showing in the West Indies in the spring of 2011 and briefly in the early part of the tour of England thereafter. More recently, he started indicating signs of a comeback with six scalps apiece in the first innings at Johannesburg and Wellington over the winter; but couldn’t finish the job in either series.

He still isn’t doing much with the ball. He, with his height, bangs it in on the seam, bowls off-cutters or just angles it in. But he has of late improved his accuracy; and in the decisive performance on Monday, aimed it short and straight to reap dividends.

England’s happy hookers – Matt Prior, Ben Stokes and Joe Root – obliged, after Moeen Ali took his eyes off the ball in ungainly fashion to a well directed bouncer. As the most experienced medium pacer in the Indian squad, he needed to lead the attack. With his latest exhibition he has established he is capable of doing so and thus come of age.

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Hamilton

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 72 runs

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

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