It was the first ball of the 10th over of the Australian innings in Wednesday’s second ODI. Ishant Sharma had just replaced Ashish Nehra and the first ball he bowled was a shocker for Shane Watson.
It kicked up from not-too-short a length and caught the batsman completely by surprise, resulting in an edge taken behind the stumps.
In a flash, memories of the gangling fast bowler not performing to potential in the last few months became something of a distant past.
This was the Ishant India knew who had belied age by producing unplayable deliveries from time to time during the trip to Australia in 2007-08 and against the same team at home last year.
Somehow, probably due to over-use, he had lost the verve and bite, which made him stand out in the pack of Indian quick bowlers.
The one that used to jump from good length and the one that jagged back viciously went missing, making him look ordinary, most notably in the Champions Trophy in South Africa.
On Wednesday, that in-dipper wasn’t quite as pronounced as it used to be but the bounce he extracted from a pitch, which offered a bit of just that was unmistakable.
Time and again, the Australians were pushed uncomfortably on to the back foot, being forced to block at a time when they needed big hits. The rise in pace was evident too, as a few deliveries went past the 140kmph mark.
“It’s a question of giving a bowler the time to deliver,” said Mahendra Singh Dhoni, admitting that he was delighted to see his speedster back in shape. “Your confidence suffers when you get hit in a few matches. That’s when everyone has to be patient and give the bowler the time to come good. That’s been the case with Ishant.”
The skipper was quick to notice the improvement made by the bowler in the ongoing series, where Ishant has taken five wickets in two games with an economy rate of 4.88.
“He’s bowling really well and got back his rhythm.
When he’s bowling well, his speed automatically goes up and he starts pitching in the right areas. That’s what is happening now…He’s not bowling too short and hitting the areas where he is strong.”
A fully fit Ishant running in at full steam and getting his length right means awkward moments for the batsmen.
It’s difficult to figure out which one is going to jump, which one will straighten and which one will jag back.
Of all international teams, Australia have the best knowledge of this.
It’s early in the series still, but even they might be a bit iffy when Ishnat marks his run-up next time.