Ducking Ravindra Jadeja’s spearing throw, James Anderson loses his footing, slips and is sprawled just short of the crease. In front of him the stumps lie shattered, around him a bunch of shrieking Indians are performing a feral dance.
Had Anderson seen the final frame of the second Test in a dream, he would have woken up shaken and sweaty. It was worse — he wasn’t in bed or under a sheet, he was at Lord’s, wide awake, and living a nightmare choreographed by Jadeja.
Like the rest of the England team, he was experiencing trauma that wouldn’t, like a bad dream, fade away in the morning sun.
After fashioning the Anderson run out, the wicket that gave India a 95-run victory and a 1-0 lead with three Tests to go, Jadeja went on a wild run to the ‘desi’ section of Lord’s, pumping his fists and celebrating the nail-biting and long-awaited triumph.
This was India’s second Test win at the “home of cricket” in 80 years, the last being in 1986.
It was also their first away triumph since 2011, and came after a 15-Test drought.
About an hour before the Jadeja throw, India seemed to be choking. Skipper M S Dhoni looked lost, bowlers had their hands on their hips, fielders stared at the turf. Seen it before, said the regulars. From wanting 216 to win at the start of the day, England now needed just 146 in two sessions. But those magical 21 balls after lunch, when England scored 9 runs for the loss of 4 wickets, made the fears, apprehensions and old doubts disappear.
It started with Dhoni telling his pace spearhead Ishant Sharma to change the plan against England’s overnight batsmen, Joe Root and Moeen Ali. Their 101-run partnership was threatening. Dhoni asked Sharma to bowl short and stick to a leg-stump line. The bowler was reluctant. Dhoni wasn’t in the mood for a discussion. “I just thrust the ball in his hand and walked away,” the captain said later.
Sharma would get all of his four wickets with short balls, that dream spell elevating him to the Lord’s honour board. His 7/74 were the best figures by an Indian pacer at Lord’s. A tall, menacing quick threatening to knock batsmen’s heads off, and a master tactician captain who used him perfectly — it was a deadly combination that Indian cricket hadn’t seen in a long time.
On Monday at Lord’s, Dhoni and the Indian cricket team came of age. The captain’s mindfreeze in Tests that saw him fail to seal the issue in Johannesburg and Wellington recently, besides during the two whitewashes in Australia and England, didn’t surface. He didn’t let things drift, or lose interest. In this classic Test match, Dhoni was the continued…