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Ishant Sharma: Idea was to remain patient

Calcutta: After Virat Kohli’s defiant century on the opening day, it was the Indian bowlers’ turn, on Thursday, to announce their fighting quality and prove that what the Dale Steyns can do, they can do better.

The second day didn’t begin well for the visitors as, resuming on an overnight score of 255 for five, India were all out for just 280. From 264/6 to 280, India lost their last five wickets for just 16 runs.

But when everybody thought that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team had undone the good work of the opening day, the bowlers, precisely the pacers, roared back to ensure that at stumps on the second day, India were not at any disadvantage.

The Proteas had actually begun well and were cruising at 130 for one when the script took a surprising turn. And it was Ishant Sharma who fired the first two ‘shots’, off consecutive deliveries.

Ishant first brought one back to rattle Hashim Amla’s stumps when the batsmen shouldered arms. Then, off the very next ball, he trapped Jacques Kallis plumb on front. That was the beginning and within no time South Africa were reeling at 146 for six. Interestingly, just like the Indians, the hosts too lost five wickets for 16 runs!

It’s a different story though that South Africa recovered by the end of the day to post 213 for six at stumps.

After the day’s play, Ishant didn’t hide his joy with his performance. “I was enjoying every bit of my bowling today. I am happy with my bowling and I will try my level best to ensure a five-wicket haul when we come back on Friday,” said Ishant, who finished the day with three for 64 from 20 overs.

According to the pacer, there wasn’t any specific plan. “We did not plan anything beforehand… Our idea was to be patient and keep bowling in the right areas and we believed in each other’s abilities. When you are playing a Test match overseas and in such conditions, you will have to pitch it a bit up as compared to the subcontinent. That’s what we have been practising at the nets and that’s how we bowled in today,” Ishant said.

Besides Ishant, Mohammed Shami (2/48) and senior-pro Zaheer Khan (1/72) too bowled impressively. Ishant acknowledged their support. “All the three of us complemented each other very well… It was great to see Zak back in the team. He bowled at a really good line and length. It’s really important for us that he bowls well.”

Speaking about the pitch, he said: “There were a few cracks on the wicket and the ball was moving up and down at times… So it was crucial for us to be patient and keep bowling at the right areas..”

Ishant’s teammate Ajinkya Rahane, who played a decent 47-run innings, admitted that they should have batted for a bit longer. “We wanted to bat as long as possible, but that didn’t happen… Virat (Kohli) batted well for his hundred and we had three crucial partnerships, so I can say that the batting unit has done very well. Our second innings will be very crucial,” Rahane said at the post match media conference.

For Rahane, the pitch is not difficult, but it is challenging. “Batting on this pitch is not difficult, but challenging… The South African pace attack is very good… I just wanted to bat within my limitations and take my time in the middle. I have the experience of 65 first-class games, so that helped. Also, I toured here in August as part of the India-A team. So the experience of the conditions here also helped me,” he said.