BIRMINGHAM: Ben Stokes starred on the decisive day as England beat India by 31 runs to win a thrilling first Test at Edgbaston, drawing first blood in the five-match series.
The all-rounder took three wickets on Saturday, including the prized scalp of India captain and first-innings centurion Virat Kohli.
But fellow England all-rounder Sam Curran was named man-of-the-match after starring with both bat and ball.
Here are five things we learned from the first Test:
1. It might be too simple to say “get Virat Kohli out and you get India out” but perhaps not by too much. The India captain made a masterful 149 in the first innings as he completed a maiden Test century on English soil. In the process he scored more runs in one innings than the 134 he managed in 10 knocks during his first Test tour of England four years ago. For as long as Kohli was batting in India’s second innings, they had hope of reaching a victory target of 194. But when he was out for 51, England were on their way. Kohli scored exactly 200 runs in the match but, concerningly for the tourists, he was the only India batsman to make a fifty in either innings. The skipper was downbeat after the match despite his 22nd Test ton.
“It was just like any hundred I score,” he said. “Back in the day I used to think about playing in different conditions, different countries, but when you become captain it’s about taking your team across the line.”
2. Stokes is the kind of cricketer all captains want in their side — someone with the ability to make things happen with bat or ball. With India edging their way towards victory on Saturday, it was no surprise when England captain Joe Root brought the Durham all-rounder on as first change. It was typical of Stokes that he had dangerman Kohli lbw with just his third ball and three balls later had Mohammed Shami caught behind to leave India floundering at 141 for eight. England, however, now face the tricky decision of balancing their side without Stokes as he is set to miss next week’s second Test at Lord’s because of a clash of dates with his trial on a charge of affray.
3. Before this Test match there were concerns that Curran lacked the pace to trouble international batsmen and that he in turn might struggle to score runs against Test attacks. The Surrey left-arm swing bowler, playing just his second match at this level, responded by taking a Test-best four for 74 in India’s first-innings 274. He then revived England after they slumped to 87 for seven in their second innings with a dashing 63, his maiden Test fifty, that took them to 180 all out and meant India faced a challenging target. Of course, one match does not make a Test career but there may be a lesson in Curran’s carefree approach.
“I don’t really think about it too much, and that’s when I play my best cricket,” said the 20-year-old after winning the man-of-the-match award.
4. England and India resembled one another in their poor close-catching. Several slip chances went down to the despair of bowlers on both sides, who deserved better support from their fielders. Dawid Malan will have been particularly relieved that England emerged victorious after twice flooring Kohli, on 21 and 51, in the cordon during the India skipper’s century.
5. Test matches have been providing cricket fans with thrills and spills for 141 years and this match was a prime example. For all the blistering big-hitting of the white-ball game, the way the momentum shifted from one day to the next at Edgbaston, culminating in a gripping final session, underlined that nothing in cricket can beat the drama of a hard-fought Test. It was a particularly timely reminder to the England and Wales Cricket Board of the long game’s enduring worth as they continue planning to reinvent the wheel by launching a proposed 100-ball format in 2020.