It’s an unlikely Cluedo solution, but it happened. We saw it with our own eyes.
Joe Root was the third caught attacking the short ball after lunch and he did a cracking Charlie Brown slope upon being dismissed. It was really, really first class. We were in awe.
We don’t know anything about rhythmic ceremonial rituals. Is there a dance called The Retreat where you take one step forwards and then two steps back? That’s the way England are operating at present.
They take a few top order wickets, then concede a bunch of runs to the tail. Alastair Cook shows signs of being a less than desperate captain, then fails to score any runs with the bat. They get within a spit of batting out the morning session without losing a wicket, then Moeen Ali is dismissed off the final ball of the session triggering alarming subsidence.
Maybe as well as taking the positives, they should also take the negatives and put them in the debit column. It’s shitty accountancy to only look at one side of the ledger.
Top win by India and it’s also heart-warming to see Ishant Sharma getting the wickets. He usually draws adjectives such as ‘gangling’, ‘awkward’ and ‘hapless’ but yet there was Rahul Dravid describing his spell as being one of the greatest by an Indian fast bowler.
But as we said yesterday, this match wasn’t won on the last day. Sharma’s contribution was the final layer of gloss. The construction work has been going on throughout. This is no fluke built on foundations laid down by one individual. There’s been Ajinkya Rahane’s blinding hundred, Murali Vijay’s stout resistance, Ravindra Jadeja’s joyride and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s everything.
But it’s more than that, because India haven’t won away from home since 1912 when they beat a hungover Shropshire side by one wicket. They had to overcome that record and will themselves to kill England. Sometimes that’s the hardest bit, but they bravely grasped the pillow and put the home team out of their misery as swiftly and effectively as they could.
Sometimes we really feel for Ishant Sharma. Whenever we see him, he appears to be bowling on a flat pitch in a one-day international with the batsmen going hell-for-leather and fielding restricitions in place. In reality, that isn’t the only time we see him bowl. It just feels like it is.
It’s a bit like being a mole in a living room. You’re bloody marvellous at burrowing around underground, but sat there on the carpet, everyone just thinks you’re useless. If they’re generous, they pat their knee for you to come and sit on them, but with your short-arse back legs, you can’t jump up.
They look at you sadly as you blunder around with your crap eyesight, bumping into things, occasionally making a futile attempt to scrabble at the floor. Someone sneers at you and says: “Ugh, look at you with your disgusting extra thumb.”
But put you outside and you’re away. You might have lost all confidence in your ability to dig, but it’s still there. You just need to rediscover it. The dog gets filthy digging a shallow hole; the cat digs an even shallower hole, craps in it and then fills it in again. Suddenly everyone realises that there are certain jobs for which the mole is well suited – it’s just that you’ve just been spending all of your time in the wrong environment.
Bailout made an unusually strong and comprehensive argument in favour of Stuart Matsikenyeri when we requested names of players whose continued selection seems inexplicable. However, Ishant Sharma was mentioned more frequently.
Sharma seems to be the subject of much scrutiny at the minute. A Cricinfo article about him last week was rendered all but redundant by a blunt and brutal subheading which told the whole story:
“Ishant Sharma has been a disappointment in ODIs, proving ineffective with new ball and old for the majority of his six-year career”
Yesterday, he was taken apart as if he were a national health service, with James Faulkner in the role of right-wing politician. With Australia needing 44 off three overs, Faulkner scored 30 off Sharma, who somewhat disappointingly didn’t bowl any wides or no-balls to extend the destruction.
MS Dhoni says that his bowlers don’t need to be spoon-fed. Presumably, Sharma is currently being fed through a straw.
India are right to persevere with spindly, lank-haired Rubik’s Cube swallower, Ishant Sharma, but of late it’s seemed a bit like a Care in the Community obligation rather than a forward-looking show of faith.
There comes a point where you’re not encouraging a player, you’re just putting him on a stage and telling him to dance with his trousers round his ankles. It seems like every time we’ve checked Sharma’s bowling figures in the last year, he’s taken no wickets and gone for six an over.
But lo, he’s just taken three Aussie wickets. The trousers are back on.
Well it isn’t a bowling attack, is it? India have got a medium-pacer called Abhimanyu Mithun opening the bowling against Sri Lanka. We hadn’t even heard of him until this morning.
Muralitharan said this week that Harbhajan Singh was the only person who could challenge his Test wickets record. At the time this seemed ludicrous, being as Harbhajan’s over 400 wickets adrift, but judging by India’s bowlers in this Test, Harbhajan’s going to need a bigger belt if he’s going to get all the overs he’s going to have to bowl under it.
Three years ago, we wrote about how India were blessed with young fast bowlers. Through inconsistent selection, fitness problems, complacency and a build ’em up-knock ’em down media, they’ve all fallen away.
The one bowler who does look determined and who has been given selectorial support is Ishant Sharma who’s currently wicketless and going at nearly six an over in a Test where the medium-pace debutant is conceding three an over.
Picking the bowlers was much harder than picking the batsmen and all-rounders. We’re not going to pretend that we’re 100% happy with what we’ve come up with because that would be dishonest and we save the dishonesty for getting out of social events.
We’ve still not quite worked out how someone so spindly can be so quick. The fastest bowlers do tend to be whippy, flexible beasts, but even allowing for that, Steyn still looks a bit malnourished. Being quick AND being able to swing the ball makes him more rounded than other bowlers.
There are a lot of variables here. As long as Mohammad Asif can stay fit and stay out of trouble and as long as Pakistan actually get to play against other people; as long as all that happens he’ll take wickets by the big-receptacle-load.
You have to do something a bit mental to get batsmen out on today’s pitches. Even if people work out the mental deliveries Mendis uses at present, he seems like the type who’d just invent another one. Will get lots of wickets with slow, straight deliveries that will confuse batsmen predicting sorcery.
Has been a bit ropey of late, but anyone who can make mincemeat out of Ricky Ponting when they’re 19 doesn’t need to improve too much. Ridiculously, he’s still only 21.
Also, just a note to say that the bowler we’re perhaps most excited about, Mohammad Aamer, is more of a bowler for the next 15 years, not the next five. We’re giving him time.
As for the Aussies, they’re all good and all about the right age, but none really stands out. It’s more that we couldn’t pick one in particular than that we couldn’t pick any.
‘I’m gangly, awkward-looking and appear to be halfway through swallowing a Rubik’s cube – how could I make myself look worse?’
This, presumably, is the thinking behind Ishant Sharma’s strange, effeminate mane. Good bowler, great slower ball, but it’s a dire situation indeed when going back to a mullet would be a wise move.
It’s great to have strength in depth, but surely you want some idea who your best bowlers are. India have had five quick bowlers performing well on this tour alone. The picture’s murkier than our imaginary, more colourful past.
Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan provided some sort of freakish left-arm swing roadshow early in the tour. Now it’s the right-handers’ turn.
Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth dispatched an Australian one-day line-up starting Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting, Clarke, Symonds, Hussey for just 159. By all accounts it was the kind of pitch that brings the bowlers sandwiches and makes their beds it’s so generous, but you’ve still got to do ‘the business’ and Sharma suited-up and shook hands.
So where are we? India’s young fast bowlers are still falling over each other trying to prove that they’re the best of the bunch, while simultaneously failing to appear in more than three successive matches without getting injured. It’s chaos. It’s delicious, overwhelming, unregulated chaos out of which something wonderful keeps appearing.
That’s how we remember India as a place. It’s strangely apt.