India lost the Edgbaston Test by 31 runs... just 31 runs. It was the second-narrowest win by either side in the history of India-England matches. There was an unpredictable ebb and flow to this game that made it almost impossible to call and fascinating to watch.
The only things that were predictable were Kohli’s brilliance, the Indian bowling attack taking 20 wickets and the top order (with the exception of Kohli) failing again. It is starting to become a pattern that should worry India.
Here’s our report card for the first Test:
Murali Vijay (1st innings: 20, 2nd innings: 6)
On his last tour, Vijay averaged 40.20 (with 402 runs) to lead all batters and he was expected to blunt England’s opening attack this time too but he looked completely out of sorts in his two outings. In the first innings, he was caught napping by Sam Curran’s inswinger and he shouldered arms to one that came in from Broad in the second innings. Before the start of the tour, Shastri spoke about wanting his openers to play 20-25 overs and Vijay would have been a huge part of that plan. But his performance in the first Test was below par to say the least.
Shikhar Dhawan (1st innings: 26, 2nd innings: 13)
For a man who was a controversial pick ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara, the left-hander let his captain down. Batting conditions were never easy and Kohli probably knew the risks that came with picking the opener. It would have been nice to see Dhawan rise to the occasion. He didn’t with the bat and he also had a poor time in the slips – dropping at least a couple of clear chances.
KL Rahul (1st innings: 4, 2nd innings: 13)
The third opener in the side. The one who was supposed to provide cover for the middle order. He just never looked in. Rahul has looked uncomfortable and unsure about his plan in the middle. Is he supposed to attack? Is he supposed to defend? Is he supposed to copy Virat? That confusion has not been good for India and for him. Will he be around in the next Test to rectify the situation?
Virat Kohli (c) (1st innings: 149, 2nd innings: 51)
Now, we are being picky here. In most circumstances, we would have given Virat a 10 for his performance but we are docking him a point for not taking India to victory and inspiring the opposition. Jokes aside, Kohli was fabulous. He was one of the few batsmen on either side who came to grips with the difficult conditions. The India skipper walked the talk and his bowlers responded too. The batsmen, though, have simply failed to get going.
Ajinkya Rahane (1st innings: 15, 2nd innings: 2)
Rahane is one of those odd batsmen who average better in away matches than in home games. His away average is 49.76 and that should establish him as one of the lynchpins in this batting lineup. But his form over the last couple of years has led to a loss in confidence. He was dropped during the South Africa tour despite being the vice-captain. He redeemed himself in the last Test but still, he just doesn’t seem to be at his best.
His record in Aus, SA, NZ, WI, SL and Bangladesh is fabulous (he averages over 45 in all of them) but in England, he still needs to make amends. After six Tests, he has an average of 28.72 (316 runs). India need him to come good. One quirk that was noticed on air during the broadcast was how he has been choosing to play the pacers on the back foot. Kohli and everyone else who did well moved forward to meet the ball early.
Dinesh Karthik (wk) (1st innings: 0, 2nd innings: 20)
He applied himself in the second innings and at least hung in there, giving Kohli the support he so desperately sought. Before his innings, though, it did seem like Kohli has lost a bit of confidence in Karthik when R Ashwin was sent up the order ahead of the keeper. But the 20 runs scored in the second innings should keep him in the team ahead of Rishabh Pant. His keeping was strictly okay – one clear dropped chance. Saha would have been way better.
Hardik Pandya (1st innings: 0/46, 22; 2nd innings: 31)
You might want to compare Pandya to Ben Stokes or Sam Curran. You shouldn’t. Kohli and the team management simply don’t have enough confidence in Pandya’s bowling. He bowled 10 overs in the first innings and nothing in the second. But his batting was impressive. He looked to stay in the middle which is better than what many others in the team did and curbed his natural exuberance. He scored runs and looked comfortable once he got through the initial uncomfortable phase. If Kohli and India use him the way most teams use their all-rounders, India might just be able to play another batsman.
R Ashwin (1st innings: 4/62, 10; 2nd innings: 3/59, 13)
Ashwin is India’s top Test spinner and his performance on a wicket that had slow turn only illustrated that point better. The manner in which he got Alastair Cook in both innings set the tone for the rest of the series. He was bowling much faster than usual and that shows how he has grown as a bowler in overseas conditions. His performance inspires confidence and England (with seven left-handers in their line-up) will have to look for a way to counter him.
Mohammed Shami (1st innings: 3/64, 2; 2nd innings: 0/38, 0)
His first-innings show was a surprise as he usually wakes up in the second innings but he showed that he can be dangerous when he gets it right. As his fitness continues to improve, he will get better but he looked a little undercooked in the second innings. Maybe, he ran out of steam.
Ishant Sharma (1st innings: 1/46, 5; 2nd innings: 5/51, 11)
Ishant in the second innings was simply fabulous. He got good movement through the game, pitched the ball as high as he could and looked threatening all the time in the second innings. His stint in County cricket seems to be helping him here and he is finally performing like a seasoned pro should. With Ishant bowling the way he was, India didn’t miss Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar as much as everyone thought they would.
Umesh Yadav (1st innings: 1/56, 1; 2nd innings: 2/20, 0*)
Not his best game. He didn’t have the consistency needed for this level. His line and length just wasn’t as good as Kohli needed it to be. If Bumrah is fit for the second Test, expect Umesh to sit out.