Ben Stokes bowls England to victory in gripping finish

Birmingham: England 287 (Root 80, Bairstow 70, Ashwin 4-62, Shami 3-64) and 180 (Curran 63, Ishant 5-51, Ashwin 3-59) beat India 274 (Kohli 149, Curran 4-74) and 162 (Kohli 51, Stokes 4-40) by 31 runs.

It was a heart-breaking déjà vu of the Adelaide Oval for Virat Kohli where, in December 2014, he had batted in a rare zone and nearly pulled off a miraculous win for India. At Edgbaston, undone eventually by a superior seam attack, Kohli finally made a mistake with India still 53 short of an improbable win. The last three wickets could only add a further 21 despite Hardik Pandya’s resistance. At the other end of the field was a spent, exhausted, overcome-with-emotion Ben Stokes, who had managed the mammoth task of getting Kohli out. He took the last wicket too, triggering collective relief for England, who had let the visitors back in the game twice with their lack of ruthlessness.

In Adelaide, Kohli had left India 60 to get. Here it was seven fewer. You don’t imagine Kohli as the tragic hero, but Adelaide and Birmingham remain his two best innings according to him. And technically speaking, he went one better in the second innings of this Test. There was less playing and missing than in the first. He began to work James Anderson around. He unleashed a few cover drives. Most of all he stayed calm. Even as India began the day needing 84 with five wickets in hand, which became four in the first over with Anderson taking out Dinesh Karthik.

Kohli remained unfussed, showing excellent judgement of what balls to leave and when to play when England tried the straight lbw delivery. He faced only seven balls in the first six overs. During this time, Pandya batted himself in, showing remarkable restraint himself. Once in, he unfurled a few drives, whittling down the deficit. When England went to Plan B after the scrutiny from Anderson and Stuart Broad, Kohli finally made the one fatal mistake.

While scoring 200 runs in the match, Kohli made a few mistakes outside off, but was excellent against the straighter balls aimed at getting him lbw. Every time England tried it, Kohli was either outside the line or brought his bat down in time. His head didn’t fall over, and he could access the ball. Perhaps it was about making that small adjustment to a new bowler entering the attack, but against the third ball that Kohli faced from Stokes, his head fell over and he played outside the line, slightly across it, with a slightly closed face. On the big occasion, Stokes had turned up, his celebrations reminiscent of Andrew Flintoff’s in the 2009 Ashes.

Stokes was on a roll now, taking Mohammed Shami out in the same over. A steer and an edge from Ishant Sharma brought eight crucial runs, but in an inspired move Joe Root went to Adil Rashid, who has a good record against the tail. Rashid repeated the first-innings dismissal of Ishant with a wrong’un, and quite fittingly Stokes ended the game with Pandya’s wicket. Quite fittingly, it didn’t come without some fight from Pandya.

AlamulKhabar Sports