At Edgbaston, England sealed a thrilling test which was hanging in the balance all four days. The win gives the home side 1-0 lead in five-match series, match report from our Cricket Specialist Abhishek Srivastava.
Alistair Cook was relaxed as he caught one, Ben Stokes was ecstatic, and Joe Root and others were on the moon, the English crowd was singing in joy as England clinched a humdinger at Edgbaston. The 31 run win helped England take a 1-0 lead in 5 match test series which promise to live it to its hype. It was a welcome victory for England who have been struggling in the recent past and especially since last November. The win against a no.1 side have not only given them enough confidence to face them for rest of the summer but have also helped them return to revive the public faith in the test team.
At the start of the test, England had played 9 tests since last Ashes Tour winning 1 and losing 6 (with 2 draws), the batting has been floundering so is bowling which was looking too thin. Above all, the preference of one day specialists like Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid was making the news all over the summer.
A win over Pakistan to square the series came as a relief for the team. However, there were greater chances of numerous chinks to be exposed against India who were ranked no.1 and are much better travelling team these days. In such a moment when England lost the opportunity to nail the moment at 216-3 losing 7 wickets for 71 runs and then allowing India from 100-5 to reach to 274, it seemed that they would face another loss against India. After losing the 5 test series 4-0 in India, another loss at home though would have been more woeful. Things, however, started to turn in their favour.
From 87-7, with Ishant Sharma on fire, first Sam Curran played a top-notch inning to set a tricky 194 to an Indian side which has struggled recently in these type of conditions. It proved too much for them as England started to get into the game with some excellent bowling by its pace attack. Stuart Broad removed the openers, and then James Anderson, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran took a wicket piece each to reduce India to 5 wickets down by the end of the day. However, with Virat Kohli on the wicket at 110-5, the test was hanging at the knife’s edge, and England knew that they couldn’t win it till he is there.
On the fourth morning when Kohli and Pandya were slowly and steadily building the momentum threatening to take away the match, Joe Root threw the ball to Ben Stokes to break the partnership and the all-rounder immediately responded picking up the prized wicket of Kohli who missed a straight ball only to get trapped in front of the wicket. The roar from the spectators was special but there was still a lot of work left for Englishmen as India had 3 more wickets.
Stokes nipped out Shami in the same over to make it 141-8. Root called Rashid clearly understanding Ishant’s weakness against Spin and the leg-spinner didn’t disappoint the skipper. After getting that critical breakthrough, it was all left on Stokes to take England to victory as he took the wicket of his Indian counterpart Hardik Pandiya, inducing an edge like the first innings to first slip where Alistair Cook made no mistake.
The win took England 1-0 up in the five test match series, while it is hard to predict anything in such a long series but the result will help hosts reignite the confidence that they can rebuild the test side which has struggled since 2014 Ashes. On the other hand, India also have few areas to ponder on. No doubt they were in the test till the last ball and lost by a close margin (the second lowest in India England rivalry), this is also true that they have been in the match mainly due to their bowlers and only because of their captain who played one of the finest knocks by a captain in recent times.
Barring Kohli, the others looked out of sorts, a problem that Indians must sort out in the next match at Lords to make a comeback. Whatever happens, the fans are in for a treat for next month or so and it will be a huge advertisement for Test Cricket.