Virat Kohli once more kept England at bay after Sam Curran’s maiden Test fifty gave the hosts’ hope of an improbable win in the series opener at Edgbaston on Friday.
India were 110 for five in their second innings at stumps on the third day, still needing a further 84 runs to reach a victory target of 194 that would put them 1-0 up in a five-match series. England, meanwhile, would be hoping to get Kohli’s wicket early and the game would be theirs to lose.
Kohli, whose superb first-innings 149 was the star batsman’s maiden Test century in England, was 43 not out and Dinesh Karthik unbeaten on 18.
About 24 hours after they had India on the mat at 100/5 on day two, England’s 1,000th Test had threatened to end in an embarrassing defeat with more than two days remaining as they collapsed to 87 for seven in their second innings.
But Curran, in just his second match at this level, struck a dashing 63 to take England to 180 all out.
That left India with a potentially awkward chase. It was also 20 runs more than their their highest fourth-innings Test-winning total in England of 174 for six at The Oval in 1971 during their first victory in a Test on English soil. It would also be India’s first ever win at Edgbaston, should they pull it off.
While Kohli was the cynosure of all eyes at the beginning of the match from an Indian perspective, a new hero emerged for England. The 20-year-old No 8 Curran’s impressive batting effort came just a day after the Surrey left-arm swing bowler had taken Test-best figures of four for 74.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin ran through England’s top order before fast bowler Ishant Sharma took three wickets in an over either en route to five for 51 in 13 overs.
- Broad double -
England desperately required early wickets and Stuart Broad obliged by removing openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan to leave India 22 for two.
That got the Edgbaston crowd roaring on the bowlers in a manner reminiscent of the raucous cheers that accompanied England great Ian Botham’s celebrated match-winning spell of five for one in 28 balls in the 1981 Ashes Test at the Birmingham ground.
India needed someone to stay with Kohli but after Ajinkya Rahane and Ashwin both fell cheaply, they were 78 for five.
England resumed on nine for one after Ashwin had bowled Alastair Cook for a duck on Thursday and it was not long on Friday before the spinner had Keaton Jennings, the hosts’ other left-handed opener, taken at second slip.
Ashwin struck again when England captain Joe Root was well caught low down at leg-slip by Rahul off a genuine glance.
Root, who top-scored with 80 in England’s first innings, put his hand on his head in despair after falling for 14.
Ashwin took three for 59 to follow his first-innings four for 62.
- Sharma strikes -
Middlesex left-hander Dawid Malan arguably ‘owed’ England a big score after dropping Kohli in the slips on 21 and 51.
But he fell for 20 when, squared up by Sharma’s superb outswinger from around the wicket, he was caught in the gully.
Sharma then had Bairstow taken by at first slip and two balls later he dismissed Stokes (six) via a fine low catch by Kohli at third slip off what became the last ball before lunch.
Two balls after lunch, Sharma had Jos Buttler caught behind and England were 87 for seven.
But Curran, after a couple of fortunate edges and being dropped in the slips on 13, found his form.
He struck Ashwin for a magnificent straight six and next ball drove him to long-on for four.
Curran, who also bats left-handed, brought up his maiden Test fifty off a mere 54 balls in supreme style by lofting Sharma over extra-cover for six.
He was eventually last man out on the stroke of tea, caught behind off Umesh Yadav.
England’s bowlers, in front of a packed, vociferous crowd at Edgbaston, brought their team back into the match. At the venue of an epic win in the 2005 Ashes, England will return on Saturday with hopes of pulling off another famous win.
(With AFP inputs)