BIRMINGHAM: The intrigue of a well-done whodunnit, in an idyllic English setting, made us fall in love with Agatha Christie all those years back. And here in the theatre of Edgbaston, over the last three days, it’s the intrigue of who-will-do-it that made us fall back in love with a game that was originally meant to be played in whites.
Scorecard: India vs England, 1st Test
There will be one winner probably by lunch on Saturday, but there have been so many protagonists in this drama that we have lost count. Take Friday for example – how do you choose between Virat Kohli, Sam Curran, Ravichandran Ashwin or Ishant Sharma? All four played their part, in addition to a few others, on a day that saw India finish at 110-5, 84 short of victory. Kohli (43 batting), on the face of it, looks the last man standing while Dinesh Karthik (18 batting) showed glimpses of a fight.
While Ashwin and Ishant bowled beautifully in the first half of the day to make it look like an easy victory for India, the 20-year-old Curran (63), son of former Zimbabwe international Kevin Curran, had other ideas. It seemed all was lost for England when Curran walked into bat at No. 8. Ishant had taken three wickets in one over and a lead of mere 99 simply didn’t look enough. The sun had started playing hide-and-seek and the cloud cover made it all the more conducive for swing bowling. In addition to that, there was Ashwin who was hitting the right spot to make things even more difficult.
But the Surrey boy showed the conviction to take on the Indian attack and completed his first half-century that helped England take a lead of 193.
Would that be enough? The packed galleries with a majority of English supporters – a rarity these days when India is playing – didn’t look confident. But when you have the quality of Stuart Broad and James Anderson in your line-up on a pitch with a bit of life, there’s no reason to be overly pessimistic.
Broad, as if to make amends for his first innings failure, hit a length that didn’t allow the Indian batsmen to commit fully to the front foot. Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were out of the way in no time and it was down to the one man who could do it for India – Kohli.
The Indian captain seemed to start from where he left off in the first innings. He took his stance outside the batting crease to deal with the swing that was on offer from Anderson. True, he was beaten a few times, but he looked more assured than in the first innings. The way he left deliveries, it seemed Kohli had a better idea of where his off-stump was.
But as much as you try, cricket is not a one-man game and Kohli’s mates didn’t seem good enough to give him company against an attack that kept asking the right questions. KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin were all victims of the swinging ball – Stokes, Anderson and Curran being the beneficiaries. It was finally in Karthik that Kohli found an ally and the two helped India stay alive.
It all looked so different in the morning. Ashwin was thrown the ball early on and the offie was absolutely magnificent. The classical off-spinning delivery that jumped a little bit had Keaton Jennings’ number written all over it.