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England vs India, Edgbaston 2018

Rather predictably when perhaps I should have been doing something more productive I found myself watching the highlights of the Edgbaston test match against India a couple of years ago. Looking back it was a great match with all the ingredients to be a classic; two top teams, regular momentum changes, Anderson vs Kohli, a boisterous crowd and a close finish.

Watching the five minute daily highlights on The ECB’s YouTube channel made me think about what my top test matches are that I can remember?

Now first off I want to lay down some ground rules about how I came to my decision; the 2005 Ashes is out of bounds as in my opinion they were played on a different level, I had to have remembered them so anything from 2004 onwards and finally they have to be good cricket matches not just famous England victories which means one sided Ashes victories at Melbourne and Trent Bridge won’t make the cut.

So then it at number four we have the England vs India battle of Birmingham in 2018. The summer of 2018 was made famous by another three lion team in Russia as the country went into party mode in the soaring temperatures.  

Back to the cricket and the series was seen as India’s best chance of victory in England for over ten years as Virat Kohli brought a settled unit with a fearsome pace attack.

The build up to the first test match at Edgbaston was intensified by the white ball matches that had unusually been scheduled before the main event. On the opening morning Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat and by the afternoon the skipper himself and wicketkeeper-batsmen Bairstow was making good use of it until the former ran himself out.

His opposite number Kohli particularly enjoyed it as he mimicked Root’s bat drop celebration from a few weeks earlier with a few kisses thrown in. Root himself earlier stated that he regretted celebrating like that at Headingley in front of the Indian team and by the close on the first day in Birmingham he wasn’t wrong too because England finished nine down.

Cricket’s unique compared with other team sports as the greats in each team get to physically go up against each other, in football Messi and Ronaldo can play against each other but they’re unlikely to be in the same part of the pitch regularly.

On the second day this came to the fore as England’s best ever bowler came up against the best batsmen in the world in a hotly anticipated contest. Four years earlier Anderson had been all over Kohli in what turned out to be a steep learning curve as he barely made a run.

Both men looked up for the fight as Anderson bowled a beautiful spell targeting Kohli’s off stump in what proved to be unmissable test match viewing. The whole spell is available on YouTube in a short five minute clip which shows how skilful both parties were in the contest. In the end Kohli survived due to some generous slip catching and he went on to make one of the most special hundreds you are likely to see.

One of the reasons the knock was so impressive was because Kohli got such little support from the rest of his team at the other end. Sam Curran had announced himself as a test match bowler earlier in the day with some wonderful late swing on a full length that deceived the Indian top order and by the close on the second day England led by 22.

The plan at the start of the third day for England would have been simple, bat the day and set India over 350 on a wearing pitch. Like all best laid plans things didn’t quite go to plan and by just after lunch on the third day it looked like India would win comfortably later that evening.

The hosts were 100-7 with the ball at regular intervals flying off the edge of an English bat and into the grateful hands of an Indian slip fielder. The capacity Friday crowd at Edgbaston (in which I was one of them) was stunned into silence until 19 year old Sam Curran backed up his bowling performance with a counter attack for the ages.

With every stroke the young Surrey man inflicted on the Indian attack the target went up into the realms of something that was maybe defendable. My first thought about setting a target in England is getting it above 129 which was the score that England scraped to at Trent Bridge in 2005. After that I start looking at 150, and then can we get it above 200.  

After Curran had deposited Ashwin over his head and into the hospitality boxes the target for India to chase was 194. That evening the infamous Eric Hollies stand at Edgbaston came into its own as fans from both sides got behind their teams. A wonderful atmosphere was generated within a blend of noise for every wicket by England’s Barmy Army or every run by India’s Bharat Army.

After a pulsating third session India finished on 110-5 still requiring 84 for victory on what would surely be a tense fourth day.

The fourth and final day of a test match that had gripped every cricket fan around the country began in the best weather conditions of the match. Under cloudless blue skies Anderson found the edge of Karthik’s bat and England looked like they could romp to victory in under an hour.

King Kohli was still their though and with him the aggressive Hardik Pandya who looked to wrestle the momentum back with a flurry of boundaries. In response Root turned to his main man that makes things happen in Ben Stokes who the following week would be heading to court for his part in the “Bristol incident” the previous summer.

The talismanic all-rounder got a straight one to just sneak past Kohli’s bat and thud into the pads plum LBW. With that the door that was ajar had now swung open and Stokes polished off the Indian tail and England won the memorable match by 31 runs.

For the many Indian fans that had made the journey to Edgbaston on that Saturday afternoon it would be a day to forget even though their team had played a key role in making the match what it was.

For cricket as a whole this match marks a pretty good template for how test cricket should be played. A pitch that constantly offered something for the bowlers as well as being easy to score quickly on, two quality teams and a weekend conclusion.

Come back later to read about my top three test matches

Click on each day to see the highlights

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