He has a towering presence, chest-out swagger, mop-like hair that rest on his shoulders, wears an unshaven look and a neck crowded by jewellery. Ishant Sharma has the look but not the numbers to intimidate batsmen.
On most days of his seven year-long international career, the brute of a man has looked like a ‘little boy lost’. However, during a seven over spell in the second session on Day 3, Sharma looked fearsome and terrorised the England middle-order.
For the second successive day, all the drama was squeezed into the post-lunch session. It was the period that saw lethal spells, a bizarre dismissal, DRS debates and a dodgy decision too. With every incident on the field received by louds moans, cheers and jeers from the locals in the stands, the afternoon action was the most engrossing and, probably, series determining too.
With Indian bowlers making better use of the conditions than the locals, one of which is Nottingham home boy Stuart Broad, six wickets fell in the middle session.
The yawning prospect of watching a drab draw unfold on a dead track was changed by an inspired Sharma. His spell of 7-1-29-3 brought the Indian bowlers and swing back in the game. Wednesday’s post-lunch heroes — Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4/61) and Mohammed Shami (2/98) — would follow up Sharma’s strike as England finished at 352 for 9, still trailing by 105 runs.
And had it not been for Joe Root’s ‘shaky initially but sure later’ unbeaten 78, England would be dealing with follow-on fears. With James Anderson (23) sticking with Root, India had slightly lost the afternoon advantage.
Change of ball
The whodunit of this miraculous mid-session turnaround can be solved by revisiting the 54th over, at the end of which the umpires agreed to India’s request for a ball change.
Six overs before that Sharma had got his team the all-important breakthrough by getting Sam Robson (59) with a ball that nipped back a bit. But with the new ‘old’ ball, it was a whole new game. Cricket balls, it is understood, have a mind of their own. They swing and bounce differently. The one that India got in the 54th over was reverse swinging and, for the first time in the game, reaching Dhoni’s gloves.
Sharma pounced on the opportunity and so did Dhoni. The tall pacer first got Gary Ballance with a ball that swung and straightened. The skipper ended left-arm spinner