Ishant's seven destroys England

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Old 22-Jul-2014
Arrow Ishant's seven destroys England

India 295 (Rahane 103, Anderson 4-60) and 342 (Vijay 95, Jadeja 68, Bhuvneshwar 52) beat England 319 (Ballance 110, Plunkett 55*, Bhuvneshwar 6-82) and 223 (Root 66, Ishant 7-74) by 95 runs

Ishant Sharma, bowling short and aggressively with the old ball, produced one of the most memorable spells in the history of Indian fast bowling to destroy England's resistance in the second Investec Test at Lord's.

As India completed a 95-run victory 50 minutes before tea on the final day, it ended a run of more than three years without an overseas Test victory and left England befuddled and bereft as they contemplated a winless streak of 10 Tests and the continued failures of their senior players to contribute to a rapidly-changing landscape.

England's defeat, and the muddle-headed cricket they regularly played en route, will increase criticism of Alastair Cook's captaincy despite repeated protestations from England's hierarchy that he remained the man to lead them during a period of rapid change. As their innings ended to a farcical run-out, Cook and his coach Peter Moores, their dejection only half-hidden behind reflective sunglasses, were deep in conversation on the balcony.

But India, who won at Lord's for only the second time in 82 years, will have eyes only for the performance of Ishant, who returned career-best figures of 7 for 74 and invited comparisons with the brilliant spell in Perth in 2008 when he roughed up no less a player of fast bowling than Ricky Ponting and encouraged India's hopes that they had a great fast bowler to reckon with.

Ishant's career has never quite turned out like that, but one could imagine that the intervening years had not existed as he pounded life from the Lord's pitch with the old ball, reviving India's spirits with the last ball before lunch by removing Moeen Ali, and adding Matt Prior, Ben Stokes and Joe Root to hook shots in a burst of 3 for 2 in eight balls as England descended into a self-destructive display of machismo.

Stuart Broad, caught down the leg side, was his final victim, in a spell of 5 for 41 in eight overs, broken by lunch. His use of the short ball was encouraged by his captain, MS Dhoni, and began as a last throw of the dice 10 minutes before lunch, a response to a draining morning in which India had failed to disturb the equanimity of Root and Moeen. From that moment, India never looked back as, bowling from a great height, he exploited occasional indifferent bounce. This was the Ishant of India's dreams - but for those who cared to look deeply enough, it was England assisted.

The ending, in India's eyes, was pure Bollywood. Ravindra Jadeja ran out his adversary, James Anderson. Then he offered a handshake which Anderson felt obliged to accept. Tomorrow, they are pitted against each other again in an ICC enquiry into the off-field brouhaha between them in the Trent Bridge Test.

Ishant's bohemian side was captured by the occasional appearance of non-cricket coloured purple pants as he tore in to bowl, East Perth replaced six years on by St John's Wood. England's innings ended in the 89th over, but the new ball was never even taken.

That these are two middle-ranking teams with problems is undeniable, but their inadequacies as much as their promise had contributed to an engrossing spectacle on a Lord's pitch of uplifting quality. India can celebrate in London before heading to the Ageas Bowl for a third Test beginning on Sunday; England face recriminations, with the Test future of their wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, also bound to be under scrutiny.

India went unrewarded until the final ball of a morning session in which Root and Moeen played with skill and fortitude. Then Ishant summoned a wicked bouncer to have Moeen caught at short leg. One wicket, but potentially a huge psychological shift. There was no skill and fortitude after that, not from England anyway.

Without that wicket, England could have taken enormous satisfaction from a morning which had chipped away 68 of the 214 runs they still needed. India's dressing room morale would have been shaken. But the ball reared aggressively enough for Moeen to tilt his head away in self-protection and a simple catch flew off the glove to Cheteshwar Pujara at short leg. India, it turned out, had found a way to succeed.

Root seemed to have ensured that England went to lunch as buoyant as possible. Ishant had been brought back to hunt a wicket that India were desperately in need of but 14 came off the over. Root struck three boundaries in that first over back, passing his half-century on the way. He moved through the offside arc - straight, covers, backward point. With England 170 for 4, an unlikely victory 149 runs away, it was India's lowest point.

From 72 for 4, Root and Moeen had assembled a fifth-wicket stand of 101 in 44 overs, Root relishing the tension, Moeen composed alongside him, vulnerable occasionally against Ravindra Jadeja's left-arm spin as a couple of nudges dropped safely away from the leg trap.

There had only been one successful chase at Lord's beyond 319 and only 27 successful chases of 300 or above in Test history. But sides bat deeper these days and, although a wonderful Lord's pitch was now offering substantial turn, India only had one (fairly) specialist spinner in Jadeja. The choice of Stuart Binny's medium pace above the spin of R Ashwin was hard to justify.

Such debates were silenced by Ishant. With the new ball only four overs away as he began his innings after lunch, Prior might have been expected to try to hang around with Root, so protecting a young talent like Stokes from the new ball. Instead, he chose aggression, eager to make progress against the short stuff. With the new ball theoretically only two balls away, Prior hooked Ishant to deep midwicket with three men laid out for the trap.

Stokes, out in Ishant's next over, collected a pair, failing to pull him up the slope and skying to Pujara at midwicket. His run of England failures is so long it is now a phone number in the UAE according to fans there. At least Root's swivel pull later in the over had an element of control, but he picked out deep square all the same. Root had imagined he might plot a route to victory. Instead Root 66 turned out to be a road to oblivion.

India's only other win at Lord's came in 1986. David Gower, a captain under pressure, had just followed up a home Ashes victory with a heavy defeat the following winter. He was replaced by Mike Gatting as captain after India won at Lord's. It was easy to advance a theory, perhaps fanciful given England's protestations of loyalty, that Cook might go the same way. But at his post-match press conference he insisted that he had no intention of resigning.

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