In the 123rd over of India's innings, a Jason Holder delivery landed outside off and Ishant Sharma, opening the face of the bat, drove it confidently through cover. That boundary brought up the fifty partnership between Ishant and Hanuma Vihari, to which Ishant had contributed half. Thirteen overs later, Ishant played a sweep off Rahkeem Cornwall to bring up his maiden Test half-century and the 100-run partnership with Vihari. In the dressing room, Virat Kohli was pumping his fists in the air more than Ishant was on the ground.
Holding fort as a tail-end batsman isn't a new thing for Ishant. In the first Test in Antigua, he scored a 62-ball 19 in a 67-run partnership with Ravindra Jadeja that helped India escape from a tricky 207 for 7 to the safety of 297. In Jamaica, every time Vihari spoke of his maiden Test hundred at the presser, he mentioned Ishant, recognising he probably couldn't have reached the three-figure mark without his help.
"Credit should go to Ishant as well, the way he batted, without him I don't think I could have gotten that 100, so a lot of credit should go to him," Vihari said. "[Ishant] looked more like a batsman than me, the way he was going and we had a good partnership and we discussed what the bowlers were trying to do and his experience counted really well there. And that eased the pressure off of me."
117, 106, 92, 80, 69, 62, 61 - those are the top seven innings by Ishant in terms of balls faced. Of those knocks, one that comes to mind is the 106-ball 31 in the second innings of the Galle Test in Sri Lanka in 2010, which came with India following-on. For two reasons: first, 106-ball 31 not out was one of Ishant's most memorable innings; second, the batsman with whom he added 68 for the ninth wicket was VVS Laxman, whose game felt a lot like Vihari's in Jamaica. In the next Test, Ishant spent 140 minutes at the crease, scoring 27 off 117 balls as India amassed 707 in the drawn game.
Ishant's fifty in Jamaica is belated reward for all the times he stuck around with the middle-order batsmen, chipping in with 20s and 30s. This fifty is the belated reward for the times he batted for hours and then came out to bowl immediately. In Jamaica, India's innings lasted only two overs after he was dismissed and he came back on to bowl seven overs, limping a little at one point after having trouble with the area in which his front foot landed on the bowling crease. But, he stayed on the field and continued to bowl.
"The way Ishant batted in this series shows the character of the team," Vihari said. "We have been talking about our lower-order contributions and the last few games it was crucial - last game as well Ishant and Jadeja had a crucial partnership and even today. In good teams, the lower order contributes and that's the one thing we always talk about and we were happy we were about to achieve that."