Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami's Stand Proves India's Determination

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  India batsman Mohammed Shami (r) and partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar celebrate their 100 partnership for the last wicket and Shami's 50 which he had reached with a straight six during day two of the 1st  Investec Test Match between England and India at  Trent Bridge on July 10, 2014 in Nottingham, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

From the fifth ball of James Anderson's 37th over at Trent Bridge—perhaps more importantly, the innings' 157th—Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck a crisp and rather classical cover drive to the sweeper on the boundary to bring up his maiden Test half-century. 

Frustrated, bewildered and utterly knackered, Anderson looked on in disbelief. 

From the very next delivery, Mohammed Shami clubbed the England spearhead straight over his head—and over the boundary rope—to reach his own fifty, which was not only his first at Test level but his maiden half-century in first-class cricket. 

The blow, delivered almost with contempt, brought up the 100-run stand between the 10th-wicket pair, only the eighth such partnership ever recorded in Tests against England.

Anderson cut an exhausted figure, reclaiming his cap from umpire Kumar Dharmasena looking as grumpy as only Anderson can look. You couldn't blame him. 

Somehow, out of somewhere, through the most unlikely candidates, India had conjured the steeliness that this team has so often been bereft of when venturing outside of home borders. 

Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Indeed, when Kumar and Shami came together, the visitors appeared to be on the brink of throwing away an unfathomably golden opportunity, falling from 344-5 to 346-9 in the space of 23 balls after lunch.

On a pitch more reminiscent of Nagpur than Nottingham, succumbing to an exhausted English attack would have been inexcusable, particularly given the manner of the Indian dismissals.

Just the third ball after lunch saw Ravindra Jadeja attempt a wild slash outside off-stump, the sort you'd see in the Indian Premier League, his feet rooted to the crease as an edge slowly found its way to Matt Prior. Ten balls later, MS Dhoni ran himself out scrambling for a needlessly risky single. 

Displaying the sort of nerves expected of a debutant, Stuart Binny reached for a wide one from Ben Stokes, only succeeding in steering it to Joe Root. Ishant Sharma then had his stumps knocked back when shouldering arms to Stuart Broad. 

Under the Nottingham sun and on the most Indian-like pitch you'll ever see in England, it suddenly looked rather dire for the tourists. 

And when Kumar, a No. 9 with just six Test innings to his name, instantly attempted to farm the strike—protecting his partner, Shami, averaging 3.33—India's collapse had almost descended upon comical. 

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  England player Stuart Broad runs through after taking the wicket of India batsman Ishant Sharma during day two of the 1st  Investec Test Match between England and India at  Trent Bridge on July 10, 2014 in Nottingham, Engla
Stu Forster/Getty Images

But then, much like England's battered ball on the Trent Bridge surface, the mayhem just died. 

Typically, fruitful 10th-wicket stands are dominated by an established batsman carefully rationing the strike to his tail-end partner—the way Angelo Mathews did with Rangana Herath at Headingley. 

Thursday's notable partnership, however, was put together by two men with 116 Test runs between them. 

You wouldn't have known it. 

Sapping the enthusiasm away from the hosts, Kumar dug in, grafting 14 runs from his first 40 balls, displaying a front-foot defence equal to that of any of his top-order teammates.

In that period, Alastair Cook's bowlers simply weren't afforded the chance to attack the inferior Shami who, thanks to his partner's shrewd work, faced just 16 deliveries in a little under an hour.

It's in these moments, when a pair of supposedly shoddy tail-enders begin to make opponents look foolish, that a Test cricketer's job becomes briefly unenviable.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  England captain Alastair Cook looks on as England struggle to take the last India wicket during day two of the 1st  Investec Test Match between England and India at  Trent Bridge on July 10, 2014 in Nottingham, England.  (P
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Then, rubbing hot tar into the wound with a pitchfork, the No. 11 began to open his shoulders.

First, it was an awful-looking but extremely effective heave off Anderson for four. Then, a push forward against Moeen Ali flew past the resting bowler at slip. Adding to Anderson's trademark scowl, Shami then whipped the England seamer behind square to collect four more. 

Two balls later, Kumar sumptuously lifted Moeen over extra cover, forcing the crowd to quickly check whether it was actually Virat Kohli who had snuck under that Indian helmet. 

Cook, desperate to avoid a repeat of Sri Lanka's stand in Leeds, relentlessly opted for changes, rotating Anderson, Broad, Mooen, Stokes and Liam Plunkett in quick succession. The field, too, shifted dramatically, a range of in-out fields, catchers, sweepers and halfway men deployed in an attempt to break the partnership.

Without rolling the arm over himself, it was about all the beleaguered captain could have done. On a pitch denying life at even a molecular level, world-class bowlers were made to look like uncomfortable street performers by India's most unlikely pair. 

If that wasn't a triumph in itself, then Kumar and Shami's eventual 111-run stand became so, pushing a briefly brittle India into a position of dominance, showing the steely grit and sense of adventure that have characteristically escaped this Indian team.