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 classic leader. In the last five days, Indian cricket’s T20 generation has shown that it can be worthy of wearing Test whites.
Pujara’s three-hour 28, Ajinkya Rahane’s pacy 108 at No. 5, Murali Vijay’s stubborn 95 from 247 balls, and Jadeja, millionaire with the bat and miserly with the ball. Plus, the precious Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who lost out to Ishant for the Man of the Match award.
More important than the win, Dhoni seemed to have landed a Test-match template that he had long searched for. Something that Kapil Dev had with his Devils in 1986, when India last won a Test here.
On Monday, walking down from the commentary box, his thick mop of grey hair matching the colour of his suit, Kapil was in a great mood. “We had heard a lot of criticism about our players for years. Now it’s our time. I have just said on air that Alastair Cook should go,” he said.
It had been a day on which the Indians finally found both their form and their tongue.