“Fabulous advert for the game of cricket, isn’t it? Anyone that says it’s dead can just come and watch this on repeat. What a game.”

- Joe Root, England captain.

“It’s lovely. It’s the favourite format for me. It’s the best format in cricket. We absolutely love playing Test cricket. People watching it as well should love it equally. They understand the game and there’s nothing better than testing yourself over five days against top quality opposition and I’m sure every player playing Test cricket will vouch for that as well.”

– Virat Kohli, India captain.

It was that kind of a Test match. One that would be talked about for years to come. England, still very much the home of the longest format, had a 1000th Test match to remember and India played their part in making it a classic. What made the Test so thoroughly enjoyable was the see-saw nature of it, going one way then another – neither side having control of the match for far too long,

Bairstow-Root partnership

This was when the Test match was going per the script. England, having opted to bat on a pitch that looked full of runs originally, had a top-order wobble. That has been the problem area for them for a while now. With Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan back in the pavilion, the middle order could now do their thing. That’s England’s strong suit. Root and Jonny Bairstow, the backbone of this batting lineup, came into their own. India’s initial charge was being snuffed out as the duo added 104 runs for the fourth wicket – the highest partnership of the match by quite some distance. (The next best? The 10th-wicket stand of 57 between Kohli and Umesh Yadav in the first innings)

England, like you would have thought, were on their way to dominate the first day of the Test.

And then...

Kohli run-out and the afters


He ran from mid-wicket, chased the ball with gusto like he always does, bent down to pick up the ball on the half-turn, released the throw at the non-striker’s end without even aiming, while off-balance. As the ball kept getting closer to the stumps, a direct-hit seemed a real possibility, and Root knew this. He picked up his pace, put in a dive but... just like that, his innings was over. The partnership that looked to be in cruise-control, was ended by a magical piece of fielding by the Indian captain that was followed by a wide array of celebrations.

With a moment of athletic brilliance, a kiss and a mic drop, Kohli had swung the momentum back in India’s favour. From there on, England never recovered, going from 216-3 to 287-all out.

And with a 50-run opening partnership to follow, India were dictating terms at Edgbaston.

Curran’s dream Test, part I

After all the talk about the prospect of James Anderson and Stuart Broad proving too good to handle for the Indian openers (whoever they were), M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, over-working the inside edges of their bats, were off to a solid start. They didn’t just see the initial threat off, they scored quick runs while at it.

And then came in Sam Curran as the first-change bowler. The Indian batsmen sensed a release, but young Curran sensed an opportunity to make a name for himself. Boy, did he do that. With the wickets of Vijay, Rahul and Dhawan in the span of two overs, Curran, literally, swung the match back in England’s favour.

Over to Anderson to remove Virat Kohli, then...

Malan’s moment(s) of madness

With the score on 100, India lost Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik’s wickets. Hardik Pandya survived a LBW decision, thanks to DRS. Ben Stokes and Anderson were getting the ball to talk. It was pretty evident that how Kohli went from here on would play a decisive role in the game. After showing great patience against Anderson, Kohli briefly succumbed. The outside edges, which were not carrying to the slips until then, finally did. Batting on 21, he gave Malan the chance to send him back to the pavilion. At 100/6, with Kohli gone, the match would have been as good as England’s half-way through day two. But Malan decided to keep things interesting, for all of us. Not once, but twice. While the drop off Anderson was a sitter, the one off Stokes’ bowling was a tougher chance with Kohli on 51. But a chance most good slip fielders would have taken.

And, perhaps single-handedly, Malan was responsible for making this Test a thriller.

The Virat Kohli show

Kohli is not one to waste a second invitation, and he was sure as heck was not going to let go of a third chance. And he was a different player once Hardik Pandya was dismissed. He started farming the strike, he started finding the boundaries, he took India’s first innings score to within 13 runs of England’s 287, adding 92 runs for the last two wickets, scoring 82 of those runs himself. If his first 50 runs was sheer grit and determination, the next 99 were a stamp of authority. In one innings, he outscored his entire 2014 tally. The King had arrived.

India were back in the game.

Ashwin, Ishant and the fruits of a county stint

England’s second innings started with a carbon-copy dismissal of Cook by Ashwin and from there on, India had the hosts on the mat for the first time in the match. Two bowlers, who had bowled more deliveries in the County Championship this summer than England’s Adil Rashid, were at the forefront of India’s charge. Ashwin and Ishant Sharma had rattled England’s batting order and the top seven was back in the pavilion with a lead of just 100 runs.

And for a brief period, India’s catching was near-flawless... alas, only for a session.

Dhawan’s Malan moment / Curran’s dream Test, part II

Dhawan, a safe pair of hands anywhere else on the field, just cannot seem to find consistency in the slips. The English counterattack didn’t come from Stokes or Jos Buttler, but when Curran decided it was time for quick runs, Dhawan put him down at first slip. Granted, it was not the easiest of chances – certainly, not as easy as the one Rashid offered him a little later, that was also dropped. But once again an Indian slip fielder was guilty of not staying low and going with two hands to a catch that was close enough to his body. Curran’s under-edge sneaked beneath Dhawan for four. The youngster would add 50 more runs from there. India’s eventual margin of defeat? 31 runs.

Credit here must go to Curran as well. Where two players with massive IPL contracts, known for their big-hitting abilities, faltered before him, the 20-year-old playing his second Test succeeded. The six off Ashwin over long on was the cleanest hit of the entire match and the shot over extra cover off Ishant to get to his maiden fifty was one of youthful arrogance.

India’s old foe – cleaning up the tail-enders – came to haunt them once again, but Curran’s innings was the definitive turning point of the match. The baby-faced all-rounder brought his team back into the match. India now had to score more than they had ever done in England to win a Test.

Suddenly, Edgbaston had found its voice.

Big Ben strikes

Target: 194.

India needed to bat sensibly. This was a case of making sure one top order batsman scoring big and letting the others chip in. Stuart Broad, then, struck early. Indian openers were found wanting against Swing once again. But even at five down, India were still in the match, thanks to one man: Virat Kohli. Until he was there, the match was, at best, in the balance. In Karthik, Kohli had finally found someone to stick around long enough to build a decent partnership. If this was a boxing match, England were now trading punches with India, with no clear winner in sight.

And then, Root asked Stokes to have a go on day five. Much like Michael Vaughan’s Freddie Flintoff, Root’s Stokes is a game-changer. An all-rounder in the true sense of the word – he will make the XI either as a batsman or as a bowler. After his fiery spell in the first innings saw India’s middle order crumble, Root went to Stokes once again, asking for one final push.

Big Ben, like clockwork, struck the decisive blow. With a full ball that swung in viciously, Kohli’s trigger movement forward and across – that had worked like a dream so far against the likes of Anderson – became his undoing. He couldn’t get bat on this one, and the moment it struck his pads, India’s hopes evaporated. A review, for the sake of it followed, but it only reiterated what we all knew. India had seen red. Their slow march towards a historic win stopped. Ben Stokes went down on his knees and roared. Flintoff would have been proud.

In a match that swung back and forth, Stokes struck the final blow.