Ishant Sharma: 'My strength is my bounce'

After an engrossing day’s play, Ishant Sharma said things were quite tough for the pacemen on a Centurion pitch that did not have as much bounce as many thought it would.

Ishant Sharma celebrates the dismissal of Faf du Plessis on Sunday.   -  AFP

The experienced Ishant Sharma was the most consistent among the Indian pacemen here when the conditions were not ideal for his kind of bowling.

After an engrossing day’s play, he said things were quite tough for the pacemen on a Centurion pitch that did not have as much bounce as many thought it would. “We expected there would be bounce on the wicket. It was quite slow, as it was two paced. On such wickets you have to be very disciplined, so that the game doesn’t open up and go out of control.”

He added, “I am the senior fast bowler of this team so I have to take responsibility. I am always up for it, ready to take important wickets. My plan here was to bowl tight and at the batsman’s weakness and bowl to my field. I always try to find the length from where I can hit the top of the batsman’s off-stump. My strength is my bounce.”

Asked about the state of the match, the lanky Ishant—who claimed three wickets in the South African first innings and checked the flow of runs—said: “If Kohli and Pandya have a good partnership then we can be in front. Tomorrow’s morning session is very important for us. Today, it was a pretty even after we bowled them out below 350 and got to 183 for five.”

On missing out on a green and lively Newlands pitch in the first Test, Ishant said, “I cannot blame anyone for this. I was supposed to play the first Test but I fell ill as soon as we reached here. I hadn’t fully recovered from the fever so I didn’t play the first game.”

Queried about Mohammed Shami having a bad first day here, Ishant said, “Even bowlers are human beings. Not bowling machines that can get wickets straightaway all the time.”

Sharing his thoughts on South Africa’s new fast bowler Lungi Ngidi, Ishant said, “Well he is obviously a good prospect for Test cricket. I think he is pretty strong like Rabada, I think he is hitting the pitch very hard and that’s the difference between the Indian and the South African bowlers. They are tall and they are strong.”

Debutant Ngidi, who bowled quick and crossed 150kmph once, said, “The Test debut was a dream of mine and I am happy it came true on my home ground.”

He noted, “I stuck to my lengths. We keep it as basic as possible. We watched them bowling in the first innings, hitting that fifth stump line seemed to work, maybe with the odd bouncer. Being hypercritical I think I could have done a little bit better, but I’ll take it.”

On bowling at Kohli – he almost got the Indian captain out leg-before – Ngidi revealed, “In my first spell I hit his pads a few times, so I thought that was a vulnerable area for him. He kept shifting across and getting more into my bowling line, so I thought maybe shoot one into the stumps. I nearly got him. I thought I had him. I thought he had hit the ground. When I saw that edge on the screen, I kind of dropped a bit, but I knew I had to get back on the ball.”

Talking through his fabulous throw from mid-on that ran out Cheteshwar Pujara, Ngidi said, “I didn’t think he was going to run. As soon as he hit it,  he took off.  I wasn’t even looking at him. I was trying to figure out which angle the ball was going at. When I got there I slipped a bit, but then I saw he was halfway down the wicket so I took my chance and I got him.”

Turning his attention to the pitch, Ngidi said, “On a typical Centurion pitch there will definitely be a lot more bounce. Seeing how the wickets fell is a good representation of how it is not a Centurion pitch. Usually at Centurion, the wickets are caught behind. The slips come into play a lot, and that hasn’t happened which tells you then and there that it’s not a typical Centurion pitch.

He added, “I still think our bowlers have done pretty well on it. We’ve hit the wicket pretty hard and been able to get a bit of carry through.”

Dwelling on his maiden Test wicket – he had the left-handed Parthiv Patel caught behind – Ngidi said, “It’s a dream come true. The way I took it…I was talking to Vernon [Philander] in terms of game-plan on how to get that wicket. Listening to someone with so much knowledge, and it panning out exactly the way he was telling me, it made me really happy and believe that I can perform at this level.”