Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 4, 2018

England vs India First Test Day Four

The crowds thronged the pavements of leafy Edgbaston a good hour before the start of play – anyone selling indigestion tablets would have made a killing because breakfasts had been bolted, rucksacks stuffed with a lunch (but no tea) and fancy dress hastily donned.

The contest, after three days of struggle, of ups and downs, of reputations confirmed (and one established) had arrived at cricket’s simplest and purest challenge: England needed five wickets; India needed 84 runs. Usually such a balanced point in a match provokes much conjecture and a dizzying range of scenarios to show how England must win and, conversely, how India couldn’t lose – but not this time. If Virat Kohli is still there at lunch, India win – there was the match, and everyone in the ground and following the play on television, radio or online knew it.

That conviction hardened when Jimmy Anderson found the line and length on which he has worked all match and took Dinesh Kathik’s edge, Dawid Malan, hitherto so vulnerable, clinging on to a low catch at second slip. India 112-6 and the crowd were already applauding forward defensives (India fans) and oohhing and ahhhing orthodox leaves (England fans). The game had shifted towards the home side, but the fundamental requirement remained the same.

England’s old guard were bringing both batsmen forward, and beating the bat regularly, but Kohli was refraining to play when he could and Hardik Pandya resisting his instinct to attack, the youngster inevitably seeing more of the ball. The target was being chipped away as a sculptor might fashion a hero’s bust, with care, but so slowly. For once, one might forgive England’s length being a tad shorter than full, because neither champion could afford to be driven – as demonstrated by Pandya scorching the first half-volley of the morning back past Broad to nudge the target below 70.

India’s captain raised his fifty with a leg glance off Anderson, the boundary greeted with enough noise to show that there were more India fans in for the denouement than had attended on any (maybe all) the previous three days. They soon fell silent, concentration as fierce off the field as on it.

Pandya, showing admirable temperament, drove another four off a Broad half volley and, after the early breakthrough, England had gone a little flat. Root had options: the left arm vibrancy of Sam Curran; the reverse swing and aggression of Ben Stokes; or the leg-breaks, top spinners and googlies of Adil Rashid, probably being held back for the tail. Another super stroke through midwicket revealed Pandya’s growing confidence – he appeared to be enjoying it – but Broad beat him a couple of times too, just to even things a little.

Root turned to Stokes, his make-things-happen-man. And he made it happen! The slightest lapse in concentration saw Kohli play around his front pad to a ball that did little – but would have gone on to hit leg stump. The game shifted and Pandya, hitherto the support act, albeit one that had hogged the limelight with the majority of the strike since he came in, suddenly had the hopes of a billion souls on his shoulders.

Stokes, never one to miss an opportunity to surf a wave of adrenaline, pitched one on a perfect line and length, too good for Mohammed Shami, who feathered it to Jonny Bairstow, to send Stokes on an Imran Tahir like sprint around the outfield. India needed 53 runs and had Pandya and Ishant Sharma at the crease with just Umesh Yadav to come. The Barmy Army were in full cry, but there was a little demon on every England fan’s left shoulder whispering – “Not yet. Not yet”.

At drinks, with a little Stokesian argy-bargy in the air, India needed 42 more, Sharma having fluked a couple of fours through Third Man. And it was time for a little Rashid. Sharma was not going to poke and prod, sweeping straight away for a couple. But Rashid’s bag of tricks were too much for Sharma, done by the wrong’un, palpably LBW after England reviewed an overly cautious “Not out” from Chris Gaffaney – who knew that Root could use his option. The game has certainly changed…

One wicket or 40 runs?

The last thing Stokes made happen was a fence from Pandya that travelled at speed to first slip where Alastair Cook, who had endured one of his personally least happy Tests, hung on to prompt joy on the field and in the stands. Pandya had played well for his 31, but in the end, that same number of runs proved the difference between the sides, England going one-nil up in the five Test series.

The match was completed with more than five sessions in hand, but it had gripped the public from first ball to last. Its heroes were scattered all over the scorecard: Root’s first innings top score; Ashwin’s bamboozling of the left-handers, his seven wickets well earned; Sam Curran’s fine bowling and revelatory batting, the runs that made a match of it, never mind the win; Ishant Sharma’s craft in his second innings fivefer; Broad and Anderson bowling so much better than their figures suggest; Rashid chipping in as expected and Stokes bagging four of the five wickets that fell on the last morning.

More than anything, the crowd will remember Kohli’s 200 runs in a match in which those he led could muster only 14 more between the ten of them. He’ll surely find more support at Lord’s, where these two well matched sides will go toe-to-toe again on Thursday. Don’t miss it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: