A moment to savour: Reliving Ishant Sharma's fairy-tale spell at Perth in 2008
India were trailing the series 0-2. However, it was the ‘Monkey-gate’ episode and several erroneous decisions by umpires which covered the news section as the aftermath of what had transpired at Sydney. Umpires were changed, effigies were burnt, spirit of cricket was never spoken so highly of and the Indian team almost pulled out of the series.
In a surprise outcome at the WACA, the Indian team under Anil Kumble defeated Australia at their fortress and the victory snapped the world champions’ 16 match-winning streak. Irfan Pathan was adjudged man of the match. Another Indian pacer made the headlines as well.
Whether it is Tendulkar vs Warne, Kohli vs Anderson or Richards vs Lillee, Test cricket has had some great individual rivalries. So is Ishant Sharma’s marathon nine-over spell against the mighty Ricky Ponting. “If I would have seen off one more over from Ishant, we could have chased the target”, Ricky Ponting would later surmise Ishant’s relentless spell.
It's almost 11 years since Ishant bowled one of the most magnificent spells of fast bowling at Perth. Australia started day 4 at the score of 65 for 2 while chasing a target of 413. The Australian captain was at the crease with the ever reliable Mike Hussey.
Playing only the fourth Test match of his career, Ishant made the Australian captain look clueless. There were close LBW calls, bat-pad shouts, edges falling short, play and misses, and the Indian supporters at top of their voices rallied behind the pacer’s flying mane.
Facing over 30 deliveries from Ishant, Ponting could score only thirteen runs, but it was all about survival at that moment. He persevered with his tight, compact line and length, but something still kept him at bay for a solitary wicket in the second innings.
Kumble almost took Ishant off the attack after his seventh over. But it was his Delhi teammate Virender Sehwag who insisted to let him have another go the Aussie skipper. At 117-2, Ishant bowled a delivery which will thereafter be advertised before India’s every tour down under.
First ball of his eighth over in the spell, he unleashed a length delivery pitching outside off. Instead of coming in, it straightened, took the outside edge of Ponting’s willow and plunged into the bucket hands of Rahul Dravid at first slip.
Ishant celebrated screaming with his arms up and fingers pointing to the seventh heaven. The Indians were jubilant, on the field and in the crowd. Ponting's dismissal cleared the way for India's memorable triumph.
Years have passed by since. From starting as the third seamer to progressing as the leader of the fast bowling unit, Ishant has endured a roller-coaster ride.
Some moments are etched in memory when the heroic tales of India’s overseas victories are penned down. Along with Rahul Dravid’s cover drive in Adelaide, Sreesanth’s bouncer to Kallis in Durban, Ajinkya Rahane’s century at Lords, the history books will have a page for Ishant’s splendid spell against the indomitable Ponting at the WACA.