A morning of oppressive tension ended in heartbreak for India. Ben Stokes, who may well lay claim to being the world's finest all-rounder, produced a rousing spell of seam bowling as England snatched victory in the first Test by 31 runs at Edgbaston.
Five down overnight, India awoke needing 84 for a historic win but Stokes' three wickets on Saturday – including that of Virat Kohli – delivered his side a memorable triumph. The pitch may not have been spiteful and the target may not have seemed imposing but a run chase in a major Test match carries a pressure of its own; India's plans unravelled in 90 minutes.
This Test will go down as one of the classics, though. India and England had tussled for nine sessions with little to separate them. The 10th proved to be another heart-stopper. The home side needed an early wicket and the great James Anderson, who must be lauded for his indefatigable spirit, claimed Dinesh Karthik off the sixth ball of the morning.
England knew, however, that there was one hurdle still to cross: and it was no minor one. Kohli had proved nearly impossible to dislodge for four-and-a-half hours in the first innings and was clearly India's best hope – or in fact, India's only hope.
"We'll go to bed dreaming about getting Kohli out first thing," Anderson had said on the third evening. Perhaps there's something to be said for the power of positive visualization.
Anderson and Stuart Broad did a better job of keeping Kohli off strike than they had in the first innings, when he had marshaled the tail so well. Off the first seven overs of the day, Kohli faced only nine deliveries, with India adding 11 to the overnight score. That soon changed, though. Kohli clipped Anderson off his hips to complete his fifty. Hardik Pandya, who like his captain had opted to stand outside his crease, unfurled a pair of crisp straight drives as the deficit shrank to 53. India had looked steady since Karthik's exit.
Joe Root desperately needed a breakthrough and he turned to Stokes. The 27-year-old is due at Bristol Crown Court on Monday to answer charges of affray and is set to miss the second Test at Lord's. If that trial was weighing on his mind, it did not show. As Kohli shuffled across his stumps to flick, Stokes trapped him leg-before with one that seamed in. Kohli reviewed, more in hope than expectation. As the replays confirmed the decision, he walked off disconsolate, patting Pandya on the shoulder. He had faced only 17 deliveries on the fourth day.
Mohammed Shami, strangely promoted ahead of Ishant Sharma, lasted all of three balls before edging Stokes behind. Ishant, who had joked on Friday about drawing confidence from his half-century for Sussex, is not one to shrink away. An edge off Stokes streaked away to the third-man boundary; a predictable bouncer was fended off and it sailed over the cordon for four. Ishant and Pandya bumped fists; Stokes fumed. India was only 43 away and England knew it had little margin for error.
On came Adil Rashid, for his first over of the morning. Ishant swept his second ball for two, to loud cheers. The fifth hissed past the outside edge and turned straight to first slip -- a muted appeal. The next ball was a googly, thudding into Ishant's front pad. Chris Gaffaney turned down the LBW appeal but Rashid had his man on review.
It was all up to Pandya now. For a while he resisted, farming the strike and clouting Stokes over mid-off, but he eventually poked at one. The edge flew to first slip. Alastair Cook clutched the ball in his hands like it was a precious object and Stokes sprinted off in celebration.
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