Understated Ishant finds New Zealand wickets to his liking

Reuters
India’s Ishant Sharma claims a 5 wicket bag with the dismissal of New Zealand’s BJ Watling for 0 on the first day of the second cricket test in Wellington, New Zealand, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT
.

View photo

India’s Ishant Sharma claims a 5 wicket bag with the dismissal of New Zealand’s BJ Watling for 0 on the first day of the second cricket test in Wellington, New Zealand, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - India pace bowler Ishant Sharma was hardly a man jumping out of his skin after taking career best figures to bowl New Zealand out for 192 and help his side into a commanding position at the end of the first day's play of the second test on Friday.

The tourists, who need a victory to level the two-match series, were well placed at the Basin Reserve on 100 for two with Shikhar Dhawan unbeaten on 71 after India had won the toss and skittled the hosts out after tea.

Ishant's figures of 6-51, improving on his previous best of 6-55 against West Indies in 2011, were also the best return for an Indian who had not opened the bowling.

"That's not in my hands," the quietly-spoken Ishant told reporters when asked if he had felt any difference from being given the new ball or bowling at first change.

"It's whatever the team needs from me. I think that I have done (that). It's a team sport and whatever they need from me, I do."

While Ishant had not been given the new ball, Mohammed Shami's struggles in finding his length on Friday saw the tall right armer introduced in the seventh over and he changed the game as he bowled with hostility and forced batsmen to play.

He captured three wickets in 14 balls to reduce the hosts to 26 for three from which they never really recovered. Only Kane Williamson's fortuitous 47 and late resistance from debutant Jimmy Neesham (33) and Tim Southee (32) pushed them towards 200.

"I think what I did was bowl in the right areas and that's what we did throughout the day," he added of the pressure he and fellow seamers Zaheer Khan and Shami had exerted on New Zealand's batsmen.

"What we learned for the second innings in (the first test in) Auckland was that if you bowl in the good areas and keep it there for a long time you will get the results."

POOR AVERAGE

The 25-year-old Ishant has had a chequered test career after making his debut as a raw-boned and gangly 18-year-old against Bangladesh in 2007

His height has allowed him to extract bounce from the most docile pitches but his control has let him down, often bowling too many bad balls for batsmen to feast on while his pace has fallen away from the 150kph-plus he was reaching in his youth.

That inconsistency has contributed to a poor average of 37.63 and just four five-wicket returns in 54 previous tests.

Two of those hauls came against West Indies in 2011 where he finished with 22 wickets at a parsimonious 16.86, though ankle surgery in 2012 saw him struggle to make it back to the game.

He has, however, found New Zealand's pitches to his liking on this tour, taking 6-134 in the hosts first innings of 503 at Eden Park then 3-28 in their second innings of 105.

His six-wicket haul at the Basin Reserve on Friday has given him 15 wickets at 14.2, though he has felt that he has been bowling well prior to this tour, just not getting rewards.

"I thought I was bowling well even since South Africa (in December)," he said.

"Maybe the people have just started to notice that I'm bowling well because I'm starting to take wickets."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

View comments (5)