Take five: Zaheer leads the team off the field on day four at Trent Bridge
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Arguments rage on about jelly-aches, beamers, shoulder-barging and on-field chatter,
but no one can dispute the Man-of-the-Match award at Trent
Bridge. Zaheer Khan swung the match India's way on the first day before settling the
issue on the fourth with a spell reminiscent of some of the great left-arm masters
of the past.
A year ago nobody would have dared predict Zaheer bowling India to a Test win.
News of his tremendous success at Worcestershire filtered in once in a while but the
general sentiment, especially with Munaf Patel and Sreesanth turning in sterling
performances in the West Indies, was that India needed to forget the past and move on.
Zaheer signed up for Worcestershire with a long-term plan. He made it clear to the
club that one of the reasons he had come on board was to improve his fitness. He shed
weight, regained his rhythm and - this is vital - learned to adjust his bowling to
the vagaries of the English weather. His expertise was on view in this match - he
swung the ball more than his English counterparts, hit the right lengths and
took wickets in both overcast and sunny conditions.
He had a poor start at Lord's, especially in the first session of the match, but
reached an important landmark in that game, becoming only the fourth left-arm fast
bowler to reach 150 wickets. It was at Trent Bridge, though, that he found his match-winning
touch, swinging the ball either way, from both over and round the wicket,
troubling both right-handers and left. He exploited Alastair Cook's weakness against
the ball that jags back, tempted Andrew Strauss into flashing loosely, and hustled
Michael Vaughan from round the wicket. These were big wickets and India's
spearhead snaffled them out.
Adding to it all was the business with the jelly beans at Trent Bridge. England's
fielders decided to leave some of the sweets on the pitch when Zaheer came to bat. He didn't take it lying down and got into an altercation with Kevin Pietersen, brandishing his bat at him. He was also charged up when he came out to bowl. While his bowling partners fell apart on the
fourth day - except RP Singh who occasionally zipped out a wicket-taking delivery -
Zaheer kept running in hard.
His spell with the second new ball decided the match. "It was a critical part of the
game and I knew the new ball had to count," said Dravid. "Batting wasn't going to be
easy and they had two key batsmen at the crease, especially Michael [Vaughan]
batting fantastically well. I told the boys not to get too excited, put the ball
there, there was still something in the wicket and we needed to be patient. And
Zaheer responded beautifully in that over, and I don't think we looked back."
The freakish dismissal of Vaughan, dragging one from his pads onto the stumps, opened
the floodgates. Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell were then prised out with incisive
swingers. Zaheer ended with his best match figures, a fitting reward for one of the
better spells in recent memory.
What he said
"I think it's been my best spell overall so far. I'm happy that the ball was
swinging in conditions that were so good for batting. I began swinging the ball both
ways around three years back in Bangladesh. My spell with Worcestershire also helped
What they said
"I spent some time with him in Bangladesh - he is a confident bowler now and he
knows his trade. He knows what his strengths are and he focuses on that. He also
knows that he is the spearhead of the attack and accepts that responsibility. I
thought that his bowling today was outstanding - a fantastic spell - the best I have
seen him bowl." - Ravi Shastri
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo