India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 4th day October 4, 2010

Ishant finally makes an impact

ESPNcricinfo staff

Six years ago, Australia set India 229 to win a Test match in Chennai. India knocked off 19 before stumps on the fourth day, but an overnight deluge reduced Chepauk to a swamp and deprived what would have been a capacity crowd of a nailbiting climax. At Mohali tomorrow, rain is unlikely to be a factor and this abbreviated series will almost certainly get the result that sets up the Bangalore game as a must-win for one side.

Australia are clear favourites, having taken four top-order wickets. VVS Laxman, who averages nearly 50 in the team's second innings, is struggling with back spasms and will only bat if required, while the tail will need to offer far sterner resistance than they did on the third afternoon.

Successful fourth-innings chases of this magnitude are rare, and India have pulled off just two against Australia when the target has been in excess of 200. The only instance on Indian soil came as far back as 46 years ago, when sedate half-centuries from Dilip Sardesai and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, combined with a rather more brisk 30 from Chandu Borde saw them edge past a 254-run target.

After some spectacular final-day collapses in the 1990s and the early part of the new millennium, India have been less of a soft touch in recent times. At Chennai in 2008, they famously chased down 387 against England after Sehwag's blazing 83 on the fourth evening ensured that they could bat normally on the final day. As recently as August, they slumped to 62 for 4 at the P Sara Oval in Colombo before Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina saw them past 257 with a measure of comfort.

The drama of the afternoon seemed a world away as Australia dominated most of a morning session in which India were as listless as they had been on the opening day. Then, with the score on 87 - Australia's unlucky number - it all changed. It was a filthy delivery from Ishant, short and wide, but Watson, who had batted with real purpose for 56, only dragged it on.

Ricky Ponting followed, essaying an equally poor pull and Ishant could have had three in the over but for a no-ball referral from Billy Bowden. Michael Clarke was walking off by the time he went up to the TV umpire, and Ishant's emotions, after a frankly rotten match, boiled over. "When you get excited, run in really fast and are desperate for a wicket, you make these kind of mistakes," he said after the day's play. "But you need to control your breath and emotions and try to get a good rhythm. The seniors help when I get excited. He [Bowden] was doing his job and I was doing mine. If he's given a no-ball, then it's a no-ball."

Daljit Singh, the curator, suggested that the pitch played quicker on the fourth day as a result of the moisture in it having evaporated after three days of sunshine. Ishant bowled a clever short ball to nail Clarke - "I think there was more bounce compared to the first innings," he said - and was relieved to be back among the wickets after a string of indifferent performances that he attributed to a minor tweak in his approach to the wicket.

"I struggled in Sri Lanka as well because I have shortened my run-up by two steps," he said. "It's just two steps, but it's taking time to find my old rhythm. I'm missing my steps a little bit. I spoke to Zak about it, and a few seniors in my team. The good thing is that I'm still bowling at the same pace that I was getting with my previous run-up."

India's pursuit of 216 got off to the worst possible start, but having benefited from a terrible decision to get rid of Michael Hussey, the Indians weren't about to point the finger at the officials after Gautam Gambhir whacked the ball on to his pad and watched bemused as Bowden lifted the crooked finger. "That's part and parcel of the game," said Ishant. "No one feels good about that but you can only control what's in your hands."

Only Tendulkar, hero of the Chennai chase, and MS Dhoni remain of the specialist batsmen and the 161 runs needed will appear a million miles away if either is dismissed early on the final morning. Ben Hilfenhaus, who bowled a fabulous spell to send India into a tailspin before stumps, promised to put Tendulkar "under the pump" and there will be more than a few damaged cuticles in the Indian dressing room after he takes fresh guard tomorrow. "When four of your best batsmen get out, the mood is a little bit tense," said Ishant. "But everyone is in a good frame of mind and we believe that whoever is at the crease can do a job for the team. We'll try our level best."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kieran on October 5, 2010, 6:08 GMT

    @Nampally, are you mad?! How can you say that Sehwag is not fit and out of form. He has averaged 66 this year with a strike-rate of 92! Just in the last game he got a century and in the one before that he got 99! Also, how could you say Laxman should retire due to back spasms in just one game. He took a fine catch early on in this match, no signs of back trouble there, and this year he's average 91 and done very well in pressure situations, just like he's doing/did for India in the match.

    In regards to Ishant Sharma, I think he can only get better and I'm sure he isn't close to his peak, provided injuries stay away. He should be given exposure to bouncier pitches and then he sure develop properly as a bowler, as opposed to the batsmen friendly pitches in India.

  • Nisar on October 5, 2010, 4:44 GMT

    After second inning performance, he can play 4-5 more tests, In first inning he was really injured or afraid............getting hit around

  • wayne on October 5, 2010, 2:17 GMT

    Despite an average record, I truly believe Ishant has the makings of a good bowler. He's still young, so now is the time that India need to invest in developing his obvious talents. In fact, given the paucity of current fast bowling options, have the BCCI or team management thought about making the development of future pace bowling options a priority (it's a genuine question, I really don't know if this is already being done)? India's batting is sewn up, they continually produce high quality spinners, but Kapil, Zaheer and Srinath aside, quality pace bowlers are non-existent.

  • Andrew on October 5, 2010, 1:21 GMT

    I can see where are lot of Indian fans are coming from when bagging Ishant, (10-ball over & tame series v SL). Its funny I see the way Ishant is viewed is similar to Kaneria in Pakistan, I think he is more admired outside of his own country. I actually think that Sharma if he was born in Oz would be playing test cricket for Oz, he is an exceptional talent, unfortunately over half of his test will be played on Indian soil where his talent is nullified, (hits the deck hard for steep bounce at pace). India need to stick with him because he will be far more deadly than Zak on foreign soil. I rate him very highly - I think he was the first bowler to put a genuine chink in Pontings confidence back in 2006. In 2006/07 Sharma was bowling @ over 150km p/hr with control. No Indian has done that before at that level of control - he has it in him, unfortunately he will best be remembered by people overseas I think. I thought it would be thru Sharma that India become the genuine #1 TEST side.

  • Deenesh on October 5, 2010, 0:48 GMT

    Ishant is too inconsistent. India deserve better, and shud have better for a team tht sits at the top of the test cricket food chain. Bring back Sreesanth.

  • Ashok on October 4, 2010, 23:47 GMT

    It is sad to see the Indian team Selectors persisting in including physically unfit players in the side.100% Physical fitness should be #1 selection criterion. Vijay should have played instead of Sehwag who is not only 50% fit but out of form. If Ishant is still unfit, Unadkat will provide a good pace bowling alternate. Laxman should announce his retirement because his back spasm have become a regular event - the last one was in last test in SL. Pujara will be a good batsman to replace Laxman. Finally if Harbhajan is still unfit, get Ashwin to replace him. It is better to have a fit 11 who will focus playing as hard as they can than unfit guys. Tomorrow Sachin must stay at one end and Zahir should stay there as though he is the last man. Once the initial hour passes without any loss, India stand a good chance of winning. But if they lose a wicket in the first hour, it will be tough to win unless the next man, Laxman.reproduces his winning innings against the SL. Good Luck India!.

  • Allan on October 4, 2010, 23:38 GMT

    India need to seriously think about playing 3 seamers and only 1 spinner unless the wicket is a rank turner.

  • srini on October 4, 2010, 22:17 GMT

    Ishant has been given his chances.He has failed to grab them.His performace in the last 18 months has been lacklustre.We have to try Munaf Patel,RP Singh,Unadkat,Pankaj Singh.Talent alone doesnt deserve a place int he team.Performances do.

  • Dre on October 4, 2010, 21:08 GMT

    @ ProdigyBuz, that would be a great idea IF there were other bowlers almost guaranteed to do a better job. Sreesanth was innefective in the warm-ups and hasn't been bowling anything special in ODI's or t-20's to suggest any sleeping form and he's the next best option. Mithun looks like just another random bowler and his style of bowling is exactly what Aus are accustomed to. @Ail Ishmail. Vijay?! on what basis? CLT20? lol

  • Kannan on October 4, 2010, 21:01 GMT

    Never has any Indian paceman developed into what he promised except Kapil!

    Srinath was probably the finest paceman India ever produced, even more talented than Kapil! He had the pace and was the first Indian, I daresay, to touch 150 kmph! His spells in 94-95 in England and later in SA; made the opponents look like toys!His offcutters were the best I ever saw! One dismissal of Llorne Howell still refuses to fade away! If only he had a genuine pace partner other than Prasad!

    The young Zaheer was a delight who could York anyone at will! Then he became what one could call a mediocre paceman! Late in his career, perhaps later than it should have been, he has found wisdom and has become such an awesome bowler. Zaheer & Srinath have made it to the "greats" list by doing half of what they could have! We need a better breeding ground for pacemen!

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