London, July 25: Erratic might be his middle name, but Indian seamer Ishant Sharma knows how to pull a phoenix and soar to heights of ether. After an utterly dismal showing with the ball in England's first innings wherein he returned horrendous figures of 0/128 in 32 overs, he upped his game to an astounding degree in the second. Indeed, he was treated to a myriad cheers off the field and on, when 4/59 in 22 overs stood glowingly alongside his name.
The 6"5' paceman had made a conscious effort to reverse his fortunes and to have England on the ropes at 107/6. Out had gone all the loose, short balls outside off-stump and in came the fuller, angled deliveries that coerced the batsmen to play tentative drives. After fellow-seamer Praveen Kumar and off-break Harbhajan Singh initiated the destruction by removing England's openers, Ishant took over with a vengeance.
He had finally hit upon that corridor of uncertainty which leaves the batters bemused and baffled. It took him ten overs to perfect this strategy. Then his agonising wait for a first wicket in the Test came to an end when he got a back-of-length cracker to edge the bat of none other than first-innings' hero Kevin Pietersen, with the wicketkeeper completing an easy catch. Then later in the same over, he dismissed new batsman Ian Bell in similar fashion.
Ishant was on a roll, returning four overs later to bowl Jonathan Trott with a ripper of an off-cutter which whizzed between bat and pad and pegged back the off-stump. England limped into lunch at 72/5 in 31 overs. But Ishant wasn't done with business. After the break, he induced Eoin Morgan into a ugly pull which Gautam Gambhir pouched at midwicket. But that's where Ishant appeared to run out of steam. His next 7 overs went wicketless and for 42 runs as Matt Prior and Stuart Broad turned the tables on India.
The bowler had tired and his line began to waver considerably as he fell short of claiming a fifth wicket which would have opened the English tail and given India the opportunity of bowling the hosts out quickly. Ishant had almost completed the task and walked off the field when England declared at 269/6, his face blighted by a deep frown perceptibly over thoughts of might have been...