Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day July 20, 2010

Fiery Ishant interrupts normal service

The working over Ishant Sharma gave the Sri Lankan batsmen in the first session might not mean much in terms of a result but it was riveting to watch

Test cricket allows for indulgences, a spell of play practically unrelated to the state of the match and the final outcome. The working over Ishant Sharma gave to the Sri Lankan batsmen in eight testing overs in the first session, both with old ball and new, might not mean much in terms of the result. This match, with 112 overs lost already and with India deflated in the middle session again, should still play out to one of the two conclusions that looked probable before the start of the day - a draw or a Sri Lankan win. During that session, though, all that didn't matter.

It was an individual contest that found a place despite not changing the fate of the team contest. A master batsman, Mahela Jayawardene, against a struggling fast bowler who suddenly found the right lengths and much-needed assistance from the pitch, which had been under covers for a long time. An ever-improving young allrounder, Angelo Mathews, against the same bowler, taking risks, counterattacking, before eventually falling to him.

The session was nothing like what had been happening before, and was nothing like what happened after. The ball moved around. Ishant bowled a length that couldn't be driven, nor could it be cut. He got movement both ways, getting some balls to jag in sharply and others to leave the batsmen slightly, not just hold its line.

For a change he beat the bat regularly; he got edges even more regularly. His follow-through got longer and he ended up closer to the batsmen - he had the confidence to do that. Four slips came in. Did his hair bounce more too?

Ishant started the day with the old ball, removing centurion Tharanga Paranavitana with his second delivery. Then he hit Thilan Samaraweera on the helmet first ball, and squared him up twice in that over. That he had given away 79 runs in the 14 overs before that hardly mattered.

Soon he came back with the new ball and started the interrogation. The second ball jumped at Jayawardene, the third left him. The fourth Jayawardene left alone, but it nipped back sharply, passing over the stumps. It is possible that Jayawardene left it on length, it is equally possible he expected it to go the other way. The fifth was fuller, making him play, cutting him in two. Jayawardene has scored centuries in Sri Lanka with less trouble than he went through in one over. Ishant's spell to Ricky Ponting obviously came to mind. Jayawardene, on his part, refused to commit on the front foot and push at deliveries. He stayed back and inside the line.

In his second over with the new ball, Ishant faced Mathews. First ball came in, second left him, third went straight, fourth seamed away again, taking the edge, between the slips and gully. The next ball was fuller, moving in, taking a thick edge for one. He finished the over, squaring up Jayawardene, getting a thick edge, past the slips again.

Ishant could have got a wicket with perhaps every delivery of those two overs, but his domination of the batsmen, however brief it might have been, was made more obvious by those uncertain plays and misses, the edges flying wide of the slips. In the third over with the new ball, Ishant beat Jayawardene with the away-going delivery again, his team-mates all appealed. Ishant just kept running through past the wicket without much of a reaction. He knew he hadn't got his man; he knew he would get him soon. The next ball seamed in sharply, the batsman was late with the flick, and Jayawardene had been had.

Mathews, the youngster, didn't care about relying too much on technique. He saw mid-off and mid-on were too close to him, and cleared them twice in one over. Every other loose ball in that spell, from either end, he punished. Ishant, though, followed it up with one shortish delivery outside off, seaming away again, taking the edge, capping off the spell with a wicket with his last ball before lunch.

There is every possibility that the spell might not amount to anything in the series, but it was the most exciting spell of play in the match before Muttiah Muralitharan came onto bowl in the evening and took out Sachin Tendulkar.

Perhaps because it was a fast bowler dominating in a land where fast bowlers have no business dominating. Perhaps because he was doing it against one of the best batsmen in the world. Perhaps because the said fast bowler had been through an elongated rough patch after a promising start to his career. Perhaps because he was doing it for a side that had looked inept with the ball, now raising hopes of a more competitive series. Perhaps because somewhere deep inside you were resigned to a draw, and here was some drama despite that.

Whatever it was, it was short-lived, and post lunch, the Sri Lankan batsmen - that is the Sri Lankan bowlers who were batting - started dominating again. Normal service had well and truly resumed.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Allan on July 22, 2010, 7:31 GMT

    @McGorium: If you mean big deal that McGrath was never classified a fast bowler, but was still a lethal wicket taking force I couldn't agree more. In fact my point exactly! If Ishant can be 1/2 of McGrath I would be pleased to heaven!

  • Allan on July 22, 2010, 7:13 GMT

    @McGorium: My math is fine, but a lesson in bio-mechanics is in order. OK maybe I stretched it a bit to emphasize my point. But your simple 1st grade math of 6'4"- 6'2" = 2" diff don't add up either! Ishant may be only 2" taller than MJ but he has a wing-span at least 6"-8" bigger due to his longer arms. So add 2" to 4" (1/2 of 8") you get a diff of 6" just standing. Now the bio-mechanics come in. MJ has a side arm action. He doesn't rise to full stature but crouches when he slings the ball. Ishant is at full stature and his arm is next to his ear in classical fashion. The combined difference is about 12". Adding it up you get something like 18". So as conceded maybe I did stretch it a bit for emphasis, but I'm still more accurate my friend. The others mentioned are similar more or less to MJ. BTW I've plenty of respect for Stein but not for MJ or Tait. I didn't mention Bolli because I think he's a 100 times better bowler than MJ who's mostly a workhorse without any real skill.

  • Jayaram on July 21, 2010, 8:04 GMT

    This guy Assasinator finally settled for an Indian Draw. An "ordinary" team like Sri Lanka imposing FOLLOW ON on India (No.1, whattttt?). Poor Batting, Poor Bowling, Poor Fielding but still World No. 1. Any unbiased thoughts or "expert" analysis Mr.Assasinator?

  • Vivek on July 21, 2010, 5:46 GMT

    I was following Cricinfo's commentary during the morning session. And I could feel what and how well the pacers were bowling. I asked my brother when I reached home about the pre-lunch session, and the reaction that he gave said it all...think Ishant of Perth fame might be back after this series...:))

  • Allan on July 21, 2010, 5:31 GMT

    Please would everyone stop highlighting their ignorance. This is not a 'bulletin' or 'report' which would of course mention all the players in the match and their contributions. This is an 'article' or 'analysis' and as such is not forced to cover the game but rather the subject matter that Sidharth has chosen - which here is a glimpse of what Ishant has promised but so far failed to deliver. The article is about Ishant and a mesmerising spell, not about his figures or who bowled better. Next time before you all jump in with accusations to the writer, think about the composition of the piece first.

  • Vidhata on July 21, 2010, 5:25 GMT

    I definitely agree that Mithin should have been credited with an article, than Ishant. However, this article is more about getting a glimpse of the fast bowler we always expected Ishant to be - after he raised our hope with his spells during the Australia tour. Nowhere is the author saying that Ishant was better than Mithun during the Lankan first innings. He's just talked about the one spell during which he saw an Ishant of the Aussie fame. Let's not throw our opinions on the author.

  • Shoaib on July 21, 2010, 5:17 GMT

    I am a Pakistani and I saw this young lads interview on Espn Star sports way back in 2006 when he was not in the international line up. i was instantly impressed by his height and his bowling action and was for a change excited to see him making debut for india as many pakistani supporters dont look forward for india finding the new talent and vice versa... I was impressed with his performance in Australia but soon when he played first IPL I declared him as a non subcontinental bowler... and thats a fact Ishant Sharma will bowl superbly again in Australia whenver they tour them and will also bowl good in England but he is not a subcontinental bowler.. Thats the reason y he is struggling he relys too much on pitch unlike Mohammed aamer who tries to generate pace to pick wickets.. his ability of swinging the ball is also limited and on subcontinental pitches you need a bowler who has an art of swinging the new and old ball both ways... Ishanth is overated as Pathan was...

  • Wayne on July 21, 2010, 3:25 GMT

    Well here we go yet again! Ishant has one good spell and BANG! he is a brilliant bowler again... India is putting too much hope in this guy. He has a terrible average and was outbowled by a debutant (which I cannot understand is not being mentioned). And I really don't care whether he delivers it from 12 feet he is still impatient, too slow and lacks consistency... I like Mithun... He has something... Just wish to see him bowling with Zaheer who builds pressure and does'nt allow two tailenders to smash 50's. And @thenkabail... I saw glimpses of the early Jayasuiya too. Herath is a very decent batsman and a very good spinner. He can become a very handy allrounder in years to come... Les see...

  • Arun on July 21, 2010, 3:12 GMT

    @Masterclass: 2 feet higher? Where did you learn math, man? Johnson is 6'2. That's 2 inches shorter than Ishant. Steyn and Akhtar are roughly 5'11. 5 inches shorter. How does a difference of 5 inches increase the release point of the ball by 24 inches? It's less than a foot higher wrt Akhtar or Steyn; just stand next to someone a few inches taller than you and compare for yourself. Ishant averaged in the low 140s in the Australia tour, in which he made his debut. That's sufficiently quick to be classified as a fast bowler. He has lost a bit of pace, but these things don't get downgraded quickly enough. Alan Donald and Waqar Younis were classified as RF towards the end of their careers, when both of them were bowling at the same pace as McGrath (or slower in the case of Younis), who was RFM. Also, for some reason, I've noticed bowlers gain 5mph in Australia. Not sure why... Also, McGrath made a living doing what you described, but better. Big deal. McGrath was never classified as RF.

  • Prateek on July 21, 2010, 2:41 GMT

    Very well said by D.S.A, just one spell does not make him a good bowler. India need some real good bowlers who can be consistent like kapil dev. Ishant sharma used to bowl 140kph when he started but now he cannot reach the 135kph mark.

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