India looked a better side in the Lords Test yesterday, when they reduced England to 105/4 at draw of stumps. But the victory in the second Investec test on last day did not come on a platter, as the final scores would suggest. They had to contend with Joe Root and the inspiration; he was able to create for others. Root carried on from last night with the determined Moeen Ali until the last ball before lunch. The two batsmen played without hurry but with due control. Time was never a factor but perseverance was. Even after Ali got out, Joe Root scared the India captain with his solid and chanceless display. Just after lunch, Root and Prior looked like forking a win for England with victory target getting reduced with the end of every over. Then Ishant Sharma produced a memorable spell of unorthodox bowling. He used the worn-out ball to hurl short-pitched inviting deliveries at a height that coaxed the batmen into making strokes. Sensing that England were unaffected by accurate bowling from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja, Dhoni and Ishant Sharma probably worked out a bizarre plan. This prompted one radio commentator into singling out Ishant Sharma for needlessly and consistently bowling short balls. But Sharma had the support and faith of his captain with some ideas of his own. He did not bowl a single good length ball in his spell just before after lunch in keeping with the newly worked-out strategy. He wanted the Englishmen to whack the juicy stuff and Dhoni set his field for catching opportunities from the tempestuous aerial shots. The ploy paid rich dividends, as even the accomplished dependable Joe Root was finally lured into the trap. With a historical 7-wicket haul, Ishant Sharma was India’s hero in the last hour of the Lords test, that ended with a 95-run win for India. Before joining the jubilant Indians into celebrations, Ravindra Jadeja walked up to James Anderson and the two players shook hands as a gesture of a renewed goodwill.
For 29.5 overs in the morning session before lunch, Joe Root and Moeen Ali played as if they would carry on until the end of the day. Root was not out for 52 off 122 balls and Moeen Ali had scored 39 off 146 as he prepared to face the last ball before lunch from Ishant Sharma after successfully fending off the bodyline stuff from the tall man earlier. The last ball was a beamer that came to Ali at shoulder height. The batsman made a cardinal error of closing his eyes before going for a leg-side pull but all he could manage was a gloved skier that flew to short leg. Pujara made no mistake with the catch and Indian supporters at Lords erupted in unison as Sharma had Moeen Ali for lunch. It was a sad end to an incredible 101 fifth wicket stand that had already begun to irk Dhoni.
Except the wicket of Moeen Ali at the stroke of lunch, the morning session belonged to England. The two overnight batsmen offered defensive bats to the innocuous looking India bowlers and dispatched the loose balls for runs. In a particularly bad over from Ishant Sharma Root took 14 runs to complete his half century and raised hope of an England victory. Immediately after lunch, Joe Root and Matt Prior took 20 runs from 2 overs off Shami and Sharma. But in Sharma’s 19th over, Prior pulled a short delivery to the deep square leg, where Murali Vijay was stationed purposefully. In his next over, another short ball accounted for Ben Stokes, who pulled high over midwicket with Pujara gleefully grabbing his second catch of the day. It was another duck for Stokes, whose most recent scores for England looked like a mathematical series; 0,5,5,4,0,4,0,0,0,0. In the same over, Joe Root also fell to another short-ball from Sharma. He couldn’t control his temptation as he swung and skied a catch to deep square leg, where Stuart Binny held a good catch. At 201/8, the game had completely swung India’s way. Then Stuart Broad tickled one more short ball from Sharma in Dhoni’s hands to make it 216/9 for England. Victory to India came in comical fashion, when James Anderson pushed Jadeja on the off side and set off for a non-existent run. Jadeja collected the ball in a flash and his direct throw hit the stumps with Anderson miles away.
It was the second test victory for India at Lords in 82 years but in the end, much of the credit goes to poor batting by England after lunch on the final day. How else can one justify the fall of 7 wickets for a mere 50 runs in less than 13 overs after a determined fight back by Root and Ali? Though Ishant Sharma returned with an innings haul of 7/74 and earned the player-of-the match award, India need not adopt a complacent attitude towards their bowling in remaining matches.