Even as India sunk under the murky weather during the second Test at Lord's, critics had begun to question Hardik Pandya's place in the playing eleven. Many wondered if an extra batsman or another specialist seamer would bolster their hopes.
The second day of the Trent Bridge Test saw Pandya not only hitting back at his detractors but also potentially entering the breakthrough moment of his career. With India needing a strong bowling performance to stay in the series, the 24-year old rose to the occasion by producing a scintillating spell.
In a role reversal of sorts, the England batsmen found themselves confronted by the prospect of dealing with the gloomy overhead conditions. In pursuit of India's first innings total of 329, they began strongly on the back of a solid opening partnership.
The post-lunch session saw the scales tilting in India's favour. Senior pacer Ishant Sharma broke through the opening stand by getting rid of Alastair Cook. The inexperienced duo of Keaton Jennings and Ollie Pope failed to make any difference to their team's fortunes. At 75/3, England's two best batsmen - skipper Joe Root and gloveman Jonny Bairstow - were in the middle. An extremely crucial phase in the game was about to ensue.
Irrepressible Pandya slices through England
Captain Virat Kohli introduced Pandya into the attack during the 25th over of the innings. He did not have to wait long before creating an impact. In the very first delivery of his spell, the right-arm seamer procured the vital scalp of Root. While KL Rahul's catch might have been contentious, the clever utilization of the crease and the straightening angle to obtain the edge were indicators of top-class swing bowling.
After Mohammed Shami helped India get rid of the dangerous Ben Stokes at the other end, Pandya aggravated England's woes by coercing Bairstow into a loose shot. Unlike the Root dismissal, he ran in close to the stumps and made the wicket-keeper batsman drive on the up. Rahul eased India's nerves by pouching another chance in the slip cordon. All of a sudden, the visitors were starting to fire on all cylinders.
Four deliveries after the fall of Bairstow, Pandya removed Lord's centurion Chris Woakes. Upon realising that the in-form right-hander was at ease against the fuller deliveries which yielded consecutive boundaries, he unleashed a well-directed bouncer. A thin edge, off the attempted hook shot, stuck in the glove of the flying Pant.
Now on a roll, Pandya sent back Adil Rashid and Stuart Broad in a double-wicket maiden over. While the leg-spinner tamely edged one to the wicket-keeper, the latter was trapped in front by a rapid in-swinger at above 140 kilometres per hour. In the space of eleven deliveries, the much-maligned cricketer had razed England's lower-order.
From his first five overs, Pandya picked five wickets at the cost of 24 runs. He eventually finished his searing spell with another impressive over. In what could be deemed as his revelation, he had shed the unenviable tag of bits and pieces cricketer by becoming a genuine all-round talent.Published 19 Aug 2018, 21:35 IST