|Edgbaston...up there with my favourite Test grounds|
England started off well. Cook and Jennings saw off the initial burst before Cook got a decent ball. Cook was out twice to Ashwin via the same delivery. Yes, they were decent nuts but if you play with an angled bat to a spinner moving the ball away from you, then trouble awaits. It is the cricketing equivalent of a no deal Brexit. Jennings was unlucky, as one trickled back towards his off stump, just about having the energy to remove the bail. Root and Bairstow were going handsomely before the major talking point of Day One happened.
Having won the one day series, Root did his bat drop celebrations. Having taken a needless second when going at six an over, Root was run out by a direct hit from Kohli. It was probably one of the worst decisions by a sportsman in Birmingham since Dwight Yorke said to Katie Price, "Fancy a quick coffee back at my place?". Kohli milked it for all of his worth, sending out a message that he wasn't a man to be messed with. "Mic Drop? Fuck off" said the Indian skipper as he blew kisses to both batsmen. The Hollies didn't like it. Joe Root ain't heavy but he's their brother.
Twitter erupted, Kohli was vilified. Now before I go on, Twitter is a funny thing. Regular readers of these pages will know that this blog is unashamedly English. Having a go at Kohli is not about race, or about colonialism as some Indian fans suggest. You should see what Steve Smith has to take, or sometimes even our own players. I'm happy to engage with fans from all countries who wish to give and take a little verbal but a number of Indian fans were blocked. If only the England middle order had blocked like me on Wednesday, we'd have got 400. Trust me, racism has no place on these pages but if you wish to read an impartial view of the game, then maybe buy a paper? It's only a small percentage and the majority of Indian cricket fans are passionate and great to speak with on Twitter. A small minority however, are fucking idiots bringing the mistakes of previous English generations into every argument.
When India batted they got off to a flier. Murali the Mullet and Shikhar Dawaft saw them to fifty without loss before Sam Curran started to make things happen. He might look as if he should be hanging around street corners with a load of 15 year olds but he stood up as a man here. To misquote a bloke from Warwickshire, "If cricket be the food of love, play on." Rahul took him literally as he chopped on to his stumps.
There were chances everywhere. Malan spilled two chances, Cook one chance - so many chances went begging I was half expecting Crossroads motel owner Adam Chance to make a guest appearance in Birmingham with a bowl. Funnyman fatty, James Corden would have gobbled up more chances than the English cordon.
|Plenty of Chances in Brum|
Crucially Kohli was still there. The way he farmed the strike with his side in trouble meant they were only a few behind on first innings.
The Kohli knock was a privilege to watch live, through my Hollies beer goggles (£4.70 a pint for the very drinkable Marstons IPA, 61 Deep since you ask). Yes, Root could have skippered it better and yes, Kohli was dropped but his 149 was a masterclass. Firstly, he ground it out against a moving ball before milking the English bowling all round the ground. Booed to the wicket, he was applauded warmly for his hundred by the knowledgeable Brummies. It might not have been a sell out but this was box office. Adil Rashid, controversially back with a red ball finished him off, as he cut to point.
England batted and Cook went just like the first knock. It's not rocket science that off spinners move it away from left handers but he went again in similar fashion. It set the tone. Maybe Baseless should make the England batsman write out lines starting with the christian name of the man who took five wickets "Ishant waft outside off stump" a hundred times? Curran took the game back to England with a belligerent 63. This ebbed and flowed beautifully. Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in the crowd exchanged missiles but you know it is a gripper when the Hollies goes quiet. They were engrossed in the finest form of cricket at its very best.
India needed 194 but on a deck that was doing a lot. At 78-5, England were favourites, at 141-5 India were. This could have gone FiveWays in Birmingham, as the fortunes of both sides oscillated wildly. England had to remove Kohli. Enter Ben Stokes. Stokes has got a court case coming up, where if convicted he could be looking at a rest period, as the modern England player calls it. I don't know the ins and outs but I do know that even to get a case to Crown Court, it needs enough evidence to get past a Duty Sergeant, then the CPS, then the Magistrates Court. Let's hope Stokes' defence is Kohli-esque. It was however, his cross examination of Kohli's pads that won England this game. Despite some blows from Hardik (surely he should be sponsored by Viagra?), England won a thriller by 31 runs. Kudos to Root's captaincy too at the end.
This was a wonderful Test match. England and India will both have questions over their line ups. The Indian top order looks shakier than an epileptic under a strobe, Kohli apart, whilst England will have to make at least one change for Stokes. Edgbaston put on a fine show but then again, it always does. It's up there as my favourite ground.
England and India entertained us in a match that Test cricket connoisseurs lapped up. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the start of the renaissance of the finest art form of the game?