After India shot Sri Lanka out for only 136, people could barely stop talking about Ishant Sharma. The sustained spell of quick bowling — consistently above 135 kmh — that he sent down, brought back memories of Perth where he similarly put the Australian batsmen through the most severe of examinations.
"In these conditions when he's bowling at 140, I didn't see the speeds, but the way the 'keeper was collecting the ball you could sense that he was in good rhythm and that's a good sign," said Anil Kumble. The manner in which Ishant performed was a captain's dream. Ishant collected two top-order wickets in the space of six runs and when sticky partnership developed, he once again drew himself to his full height of 6' 4" and bustled through defences
"The way Ishant and Zaheer bowled today was amazing. On this pitch to crank it up like that, from a 19-year-old, was something special," said Kumble. But it was not merely that the pitch was offering little by way of assistance.
India were defending only 306 and with the pitch not crumbling, the spinners might have taken a longer time to come into play. India needed wickets from their quick men, and the manner in which Ishant struck was the shock and awe kind.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, was at the receiving end, and so much was Ishant's impact that Sri Lanka are looking for a similar weapon from their ranks, leading into the final Test.
"That's something for us to discuss. We felt that in these conditions, the medium-pacers are effective as well. Ishant is an exceptional bowler with his height and everything," said Jayawardene. "He creates a bit of bounce on this kind of wicket. That's something that India has. We need to make a smart choice."
It's not often that a young fast bowler wins the day for India, with Kumble and Harbhajan Singh usually doing a lion's share of the bowling. With Kumble still not at his lethal best, someone needed to stand up and breathe fire for India. And Ishant did that to perfection.