Beating the Three Lions in their own den is no mean feat but to do so at their iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground is certainly a remarkable achievement. India have managed to do this only twice in their history. The first moment came in 1986 and the next came after nearly three decades when they won the second Test of the 2014 series by 95 runs. The architect of the famous triumph was pacer Ishant Sharma whose inspired spell on the final day rattled the Englishmen. Sharma’s career-best 7/74 in England’s second innings gave India a 1-0 lead in the five-match series. While the rest of the summer did not pan out as India would have hoped for – they lost the rest of the matches in the series and ended up on the wrong side of a 1-3 result – Sharma’s spell is one was a reminder that the art of bodyline continues to thrive in cricket.
Until the Lord’s Test, question marks persisted on Sharma’s consistency. But with his match-winning figures (23-6-74-7), the 29-year-old had answered his critics in emphatic fashion.
India batted first but James Anderson’s four-wicket haul restricted them to 295. Ajinkya Rahane was the sole centurion with a poised 103. In reply, England made 319 in their first innings. But the lead was canceled as India ended with a competitive 342.
Needing 319 to win, England lost a few early wickets but recovered to a comfortable 173/4. 2 more sessions were left on the last day and India needed a shot of inspiration from somewhere. Ishant Sharma rose to the occasion and bowled his heart out with the old ball to produce an astounding spell of fast bowling.
First to go was Moeen Ali. Just before lunch, Sharma was running in full steam and Ali looking to fend it away. He failed to cope with a rising delivery from Sharma and was out at short-leg for 39 just before lunch. Into the second session and Sharma persisted with short-pitched stuff and the reward for patience was Matt Prior, Ben Stokes, and Joe Root. One by one the three middle-order batsmen succumbed to a burst of short deliveries. Out of nowhere, Sharma was on cloud nine and England in a self-destructive mode.
Root’s dismissal was the writing on the wall and the tail was cleaned up in a matter of minutes. England’s last six wickets fell for 50 runs with the final five coming in only 12.2 overs. Sharma’s tactics of bowling short had ensured a dramatic collapse. Dhoni’s effective field placements worked wonders equally. After the game, Sharma revealed that idea of bowling bouncers was the idea of MS Dhoni.
Ishant Sharma will be a vital cog of India’s pace battery on the upcoming tour which begins on August 1 at Edgbaston. His valiant effort during the 2014 Test series is a testament of what he brings to the table. But will he able to repeat the same in August 2018? Only time can tell.