After going 2-0 down in the five-match series, India needed a spark at Trent Bridge. After Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane did their bit with the bat, Hardik Pandya came to the fore, his five-wicket haul putting India in pole position in the game.
India finished their first innings on 329, and Pandya’s strikes helped the visitors shoot England out for 161, giving them a 168-run lead. They built on it then, ending the second day on 124/2 in their second hit, taking the overall advantage to 292.
Pandya got into the act after Ishant Sharma had sent back Alastair Cook and Ollie Pope and Jasprit Bumrah had accounted for Keaton Jennings, all three batsmen caught behind by debutant keeper Rishabh Pant, who ended with five catches, some of them stunners.
WATCH: Highlights from an eventful day at Trent Bridge.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) August 19, 2018
Pandya first had Joe Root caught by KL Rahul in the slips, and then got rid of Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid, all caught in the cordon behind the stumps, and finally had Stuart Broad lbw with one swinging in sharply to get his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket, which took his tally up to 15 wickets in his 10th Test.
It probably helped silence – or at least quieten temporarily – his critics, who feel he isn’t good enough with bat or ball to merit a place in the Test XI.
“First of all, I don’t play for them (critics). They are getting paid for saying things which I don’t even want to know [about] and I don’t even care,” he said after the day’s play.
“I play for my country. I don’t care what they say. It’s their job to say it and it’s my job to play for my country. I’m doing the right thing. My team is happy with me. Nothing else matters.”
Unlike England, who have had the good fortune of having Andrew Flintoff and Ben Stokes as they tried to find ‘the next Ian Botham’, India haven’t been lucky enough with their search for ‘the next Kapil Dev’.
Is Pandya the answer?
“The problem with this is you compare, yes, but all of a sudden something goes wrong and they are like ‘he is not that’. I have never wanted to be Kapil Dev, let me be Hardik Pandya,” he countered.
“I am good at being Hardik Pandya, reached here till now, I have played 40  ODIs and now 10 Test matches being Hardik Pandya, not Kapil Dev. They are great in their era. Let me be Hardik Pandya. Stop comparing me with anyone. I will be happy if you don’t.”
Pandya, happy that his wickets at Trent Bridge were “at a very important place”, thanked Ishant Sharma, the pace spearhead for India, for helping his game.
“Ishy was telling me the same thing: don’t go for the wickets, if you keep bowling at the rights areas, you have the talent to get the wickets,” said Pandya. “That’s the same thing I tell him and same thing which we tell other bowlers. Keep it tight, let’s see what they do, let’s check their patience and we saw the result.”