No one ever imagined that a day will come when all of India would say 'We missed Ishant!'
The same Ishant, who was ridiculed over the years; the same Ishant who was the butt of many a joke; the same Ishant who received intense criticism and abuse. But as England cruised to a dominant position -- amassing 247/2 on day one of the third Test against India, Ishant Sharma's absence was sorely felt.
The lanky Indian pacer came into this series on the back of good performances in South Africa and New Zealand. And just when it looked like he was getting into the groove, disaster struck in the form of an injury. He was deemed unfit on the morning of the third Test. His 7-74 in the Lord's Test was splendid but now India will have to do without him.
After 10 years of hard work and toil in domestic cricket, Rajasthan pacer Pankaj Singh was finally awarded his Test cap.
From the beginning, it all went England's way. They won the toss, elected to bat and the out-of-form Alastair Cook got a reprieve early on when Ravindra Jadeja dropped a regulation catch at third slip off Pankaj Singh, depriving the pacer of his maiden Test wicket.
Cook and Sam Robson added 55 for the first wicket and England went into lunch at 78/1. The Indian seamers couldn't take advantage of the crucial first hour, they found the movement but couldn't find the line to regularly trouble the batsmen. The wickets remained elusive.
Cook and Gary Ballance, then, settled down and played with ease as the Indian pacers fluffed their line and length. Ravindra Jadeja did the containing job but as the partnership grew, India needed a bowler who could script a turnaround.
Rewind to the first Test, Trent Bridge, day 3...
England were looking solid at 134/1 in reply to India's first innings total of 457. Robson and Ballance were in the midst of a 125-run stand when Dhoni brought on Ishant after lunch. In his very first over after the break, he removed Robson(59). His spell of 7-3-29-3 triggered a first innings English collapse on a docile track. He turned things around out of nothing.
Moving on to the second Test at Lord's. On the final day, England needed 214 with six wickets in hand, Joe Root and Moeen Ali had put England into a very good position surviving the first hour and then adding 68 runs. But then Ishant produced a snorter to get rid of Moeen off the last ball before lunch and that turned the game around.
Despite the wicket, England were still in good position to win going into the break. But after lunch, Ishant came out firing on all cylinders and bowled a hostile spell of 6-0-29-4 to power India to a famous win.
Earlier, too, we have witnessed the Delhi pacer’s spell against Australia at the WACA in 2008 where he made Ricky Ponting look like a club batsman and then in 2011 at Lord's against England, where he turned it around for India with a spell of 5-3-4-3 in the final hour before lunch on the fourth day. He has that ability to use reverse swing to great effect and produce match-turning spells.
India needed some someone like Ishant to conjure a magical spell when the Cook-Ballance partnership was blossoming.
Shami didn't get his line right and went at 3.44 runs per over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar didn't get the zip in his bowling that he got in the first two Tests and never looked as threatening. Pankaj Singh was the one shining light in India's arsenal as he bowled with great discipline but he was unlucky as there was the Cook catch dropped off him and then at the fag end of the day, he had a huge LBW appeal turned down against Ian Bell. Replays showed that the ball would have hit the stumps.
The bowlers hardly got the ball to reverse, Shami utilised it to great effect earlier in his career but hasn’t got it going of late. He seems a little jaded now. There is too much burden on Bhuvneshwar and Pankaj is playing just his first match. The inexperience in the bowling line-up seems to be hurting India.
Cook and Ballance went on to add 158 runs for the 2nd wicket. The England skipper (95) was finally dismissed off an innocuous delivery from Jadeja. Ballance reached his 3rd Test century in just his fifth Test and is looking solid at 104*. Bell, who is at the crease, is due for some big runs.
The pitch will only get better and with England having a long batting line-up, it will only get tougher for the Indian bowlers from here on.
For the first time in a long time, India is missing Ishant and Harsha Bhogle summed it up perfectly with this tweet during the first day's play.
Updated Date: Jul 28, 2014 14:06 PM