If not for the bouncers, MS Dhoni would have found it impossible to make his way to the pavilion after his post-match assignments.
Surrounded by security personnel, he inched his way through the crowd, chants of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ ringing in the ears. Dhoni didn’t mind the extra attention and for once emotions were there to seen. He was grinning from ear-to-ear.
Moments ago, he had led his team to a sensational win at the famous ground. The significance of the achievement was not lost on him or the team. They had arrived after a long and torturous period, probably the worst, in India’s Test history. After a three-year and 15-Test wait, India got to savour their first Test win abroad.
Ironically, Dhoni’s road to hell had begun at this ground in 2011. A cycle which triggered routs in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
Somehow, Dhoni survived it all. The wheel turned in the second Test against England. Powered by Ishant Sharma’s career-best haul of seven for 74, India bowled out the home team for 223. The 95-run win was the team’s first abroad since the summer of 2011 against the West Indies.
Over the last five days, India showed the resolve to emerge triumphant in a tense Test which fluctuated from one side to another. The pattern of play remained true to its script on the final day. But they should have accounted for the grit of England’s fifth-wicket pair. In a combative mood, Joe Root and Moeen Ali dug in to leave the game in balance with a partnership of 101.
It was a slow but absorbing first session. Just when it looked like India would suffer another horrendous day, which has become a trend when bowlers are not able to finish off games, Ishant provided the spark to lift his team with a ball to go for lunch.
After a fruitless experiment of attacking Root and Moeen with the moving and spinning ball, Dhoni, in desperation, turned to plan B. Ishant was ordered to attack with the short ball. The success was immediate as Ali fended awkwardly at a snorter to be caught at short-leg. Sticking to the brief, Ishant kept changing the angle of his attack, using the crease from over and round the wicket.
Dhoni had started with a close-ring around the bat. Under the new strategy, he backed Ishant with three men on the leg-side fence for the hook and pull shot.
To the disbelief of the England captain and coach, the batsmen fell into the trap. The procession started with Matt Prior pulling Ishant straight to Murali Vijay at mid-wicket.
Buoyed by the success, Ishant returned from the lunch break to wreak havoc with a barrage of bouncers. With the England batsmen showing lack of awareness, the battle was over in quick time with Ishant claiming Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad and Joe Root with the short stuff for a post-lunch return of 6-0-27-4. At the end of it, his figures read 23-6-74-7, his best-ever haul.