Taking five wickets in only your second Test could be a tall order, but Ishant Sharma was up to it.
First, a reality check — Ishant wiped out the Pakistan tail, and in terms of the Pakistan line-up, No. 6 Faisal Iqbal was the top batsman he dismissed, on Monday.
On Tuesday, after an erratic start in the morning, he beat the bat a few times but also went for a lot of runs.
In the afternoon, after the spinners had struggled and failed against Misbah-ul-Haq and Yasir Arafat, Ishant was handed the ball. His 28 overs until then had yielded 109 runs, and he'd taken only one wicket.
After three quiet overs, in which he did surprise both batsmen a bit with deliveries that spat up, Ishant started the rout, taking out Arafat. Mohammad Sami, Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria all followed, two of them beaten by short balls. A spell of four for nine off 6.1 overs transformed Ishant's figures in no time.
It wasn't as easy as it seemed, he later admitted.
“It was not an easy track to bowl on, it was a flat wicket,” Ishant, who made his Test debut earlier in 2007 in Bangladesh, said later.
“On a flat track like this, you will go for boundaries,” he said. “And if you are scared of getting hit for four, there is no use playing cricket… You need to be brave.”
“On this wicket, it will help if you are patient… I was patient and tried to maintain a good line and length,” he said.
Did he try to change anything after his fruitless spell in the morning?
“Yes, I did. I changed my line and used the crease more. I tried a change of pace also, and all this did help,” he said.
There was no dearth of good advice, he said, even though there were no senior pacemen around.
“Everyone was helping me, everyone was telling me how I had to bowl…”
“Coach Venkatesh Prasad also spoke to me, he told me to change my line and length and to use my height,” he said.
He would need advice, and a lot of hard work, on another matter — his tendency to send down no balls. He had nine for the game, an improvement from the 38 he bowled in his last Ranji game, against Himachal Pradesh.
“Yes, I realise that I must work on it,” he said, but said that nets would be the best place to work on it. “But in a match, if you start concentrating on no-balls, you won't be able to concentrate on your bowling.”
Ishant made his Test debut against Bangladesh merely months after Sarfraz Nawaz predicted it. Now, after his show in his second Test, he's only raised the bars, and expectations.