“Anyone saying Test Match cricket is dead can watch that on repeat.”- Joe Root is seated and talking to a room packed with the press. Long gone is an exhausted-looking England captain we saw so recently on the field. In his place sat a man unable to contain the gigantic grin spread across his face. It seemed to be a mixture of elation and relief. And so it seems, Test cricket can do magic. Behind him lies just over three days of one of the most nerve-wracking Tests in recent history. The spectators as well felt it is a potent cocktail of drama and tension.
To Root’s left was Sam Curran, who was adjudged Man Of The Match in only his Second Test. A bloke just two months out of his teens, but you couldn’t say that watching him play a crucial knock in England’s second innings. As the film scripts would allow, it may stretch plausibility. However, Test cricket has had better writers, because the players themselves have changed the destiny of a match through sheer will and brilliance time and again. This was quite possibly a Roman banquet of a match. There were ever-increasingly delicious courses with a conclusion ever so mouth-watering that you would wish to relive it all once again.
Do you know where the beauty of Test cricket lies? The beauty of Test cricket lies in the fact that, you are never quite sure who’s winning. It’s not over till the last ball is bowled or the last wicket is taken. And here, in the end, a fine cricket match has been won by a better team. It was by no means a simple or linear as that. However, the facts are worth mentioning. It was not until the denouement could anyone watching the game be sure who would take the win. The question-“Who’s winning?” had been asked more times than “Why isn’t there a third man?”-though only just that.
In an exponential way, this seemed to be Kohli’s match and had to wrestle it( if you consider) from the eager young arms of Sam Curran. But when the clock struck 11.47 in the morning, Ben Stokes had finally trapped him in front of the stumps that he so vigorously tried protecting from the very first ball he faced in this Test Match.
From 216 for 3 on the first day- due largely to a sublime partnership between Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, England really should have been able to put the match to bed. But, Kohli’s chase, fetch and deadly throw had the England captain back to the pavilion and stunned everyone on the ground. A batting collapse ensued and reminded all in attendance that England’s inconsistencies with the bat live on and whichever team faces England are never truly out of the game.
Like the trench warfare from the World War One, any advance made by one side had been undone by the other. England began the counterattack with Stokes and Curran. Now, it was India’s turn to crumble under pressure. Initially, they lost three wickets for 9 runs in the space of just 14 balls. And again two wickets fell within 11 balls without any run being added to the score. At 100/5, England had India between the teeth.
You know, a dog can catch a squirrel which it chased for a long time but, it will release it immediately knowing not what to do with it. That is exactly what happened to England as they let India slip by. Twice they dropped Kohli as India looked to live and fight another day. All of a sudden, their captain had fought his way to a gutsy knock of 149. This meant that India came very close to England’s total but, England was granted a lead of 13 runs. If in the first two days Kohli was the hero for India, then they had a great supporting act in the name of Ravi Ashwin in the third day. Along with Ishant Sharma, he had England running for the hills.
However, this was the 1000th Test for England surely there was something special in store. Ashwin was dominating the English left-handers until Sam Curran swatted him out of the attack. By the time Curran had finished, England has at least something on the board to defend. But, how many twists and turns had this game already seen? Not enough apparently. The run-chase by India was packed with ups and downs, session-by-session. It’s well known how deadly the English pacers are on the home turf. But, Kohli stood between them and a surprise win.
However, it was Kohli’s destiny to be the tragic hero. As he tried so many times to wrestle India out of the tight spots, he fell just short this time around. Finally, fitting enough, Stokes steamed into a bubbling Hardik Pandya as he let fly a delivery which fairly sped from the edge of the bat and onto Cook’s safe hands at the first slip. And it was just one those Test matches where can’t really pick out a winner and point out the loser. But that’s where the beauty of the longest format of the game lies. It’s not just about the swash-buckling innings’, the hooks, the misses but everything that comes with it. In T20 cricket, you may as well call it monotonous. But with Test cricket, there’s always something new to be offered.
It isn’t called the finest format of the game for nothing. Five grueling days of cricket that will challenge both the teams, through the sessions. Test cricket is here to question the batsmen and the bowler, the techniques, and their mental fortitudes. Sure the pitch has its part to play. However, it’s the players on the field who dig deep into their arsenal and make this game worth watching. So, now take a look back one more time at the Edgbaston Test, and you will have your answer: Test Cricket is still alive.
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