India fall short in 194 run chase

Brief scores:

England 287 (1st innings)
Joe Root 80
Ravichandran Ashwin 4/62

India 274 (1st innings)
Virat Kohli 149
Sam Curran 4/74

England 180 (2nd innings)
Sam Curran 63
Ishant Sharma 5/51

India 162 (2nd innings)
Virat Kohli 51
Ben Stokes 4/40

A Test match short of no drama saw England clinch a 31-run thriller in the first session of day four to break many Indian hearts in Birmingham and back home thanks to an all-round Sam Curran show.

Going into the game India made a big change at the top. Cheteshwar Pujara was left out and the number one Test side had a new number three opting for the in-form KL Rahul.

England won the toss and opted to bat first. However, England lost Alastair Cook (13) owed to a masterstroke from Kohli who gave the new ball pretty early to Ashwin. English skipper Joe Root joined forces with Keaton Jennings as the duo batted without a fuss for the next couple of hours.

A lapse in concentration saw Jennings (42) chopping one onto his stumps before Dawid Malan (8) was trapped by Mohammed Shami. England rebuilt through skipper Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow who batted without giving a chance for the entire second session.

A moment of brilliance from skipper Virat Kohli ran Joe Root (80) out to stage a mighty English collapse. England went from 216/3 to 287 all-out thanks to a fine spell from Ravichandran Ashwin who added three more wickets to his tally — Ben Stokes (21), Jos Buttler (0) and Stuart Broad (1).

Mohammed Shami’s fiery reverse swing helped him get rid of Sam Curran who added 24 crucial runs batting with the tail. India took 10 balls on the second day to bowl England out and got off to a steady start with Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan adding 50 runs for the first wicket.

England struck back through Sam Curran who dismissed Vijay (20), KL Rahul (4) and Shikhar Dhawan (26) within the span of eight balls. Skipper Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane got together to resurrect India’s innings before Stokes removed Rahane (15) and Dinesh Karthik (0) in his successive overs.

India were on the ropes at 100/5 and England had the opportunity to take a big first-innings lead but they dropped Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya on two-back-to-back deliveries. Hardik faced 52 balls for his hard-fought 22 before a yorker from Curran trapped him in front of the sticks.

Virat Kohli on the other hand, had other ideas. He grew from strength to strength on the other end and bailed India out of a difficult situation, converting his first Test fifty on English soil to a historic hundred. Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav stuck around to give Kohli the required support.

Kohli batted with true finesse along with the tail-enders and ended up scoring 149, taking India to 274. Before day two got over, Ashwin had pocketed Alastair Cook for a duck in a first-innings replay.

Day three began with Ashwin bagging Jennings (8) and Joe Root (14) to rock England in the first session.

Just when Malan and Bairstow combined to take England through to lunch, Ishant Sharma struck in time to get rid of Malan. His twin strikes in the last over before lunch saw him dismiss Bairstow and Stokes to help India tilt the game in their favour. His riveting spell and perhaps the over continued even after lunch when he removed Buttler (1) cheaply.

England were reeling at 87/7 when Adil Rashid and Sam Curran led a heroic late cavalry charge. Rashid fell for 14 to Umesh but Sam’s counter-attacking knock kept England in the hunt.

Ishant Sharma returned to remove Broad and complete his 5-wicket haul in the process but the damage had been done. Curran fell for 63 with India needing 194 to chase.

India’s chase started on the wrong foot with Broad removing Vijay (6) and Dhawan (13) in successive overs. Virat Kohli joined forces with KL Rahul who was looking good until that one ball from Stokes dismissed him for 13. A poor shot from Ajinkya Rahane saw him being caught behind for 2 when India decided to promote Ashwin ahead of Karthik and Pandya.

The move did not work with Anderson getting the better of the off-spinner for 13. Virat Kohli was running out of partners when Dinesh Karthik applied himself in the middle and stuck with the Indian skipper to take India closer to the target.

India ended day three on 110/5 with Kohli batting on 43* along with Karthik. England were 5 wickets away from a win on day four when James Anderson removed Karthik in the first over.

Hardik Pandya walked out next and gave Virat Kohli the support that he needed. The duo added 29-runs for the next wicket before Joe Root decided to throw the ball to Ben Stokes. What followed next changed the course of the match. Stokes got Kohli (51) and Mohammed Shami (0) in the same over with India still 53 runs adrift of the target.

Ishant joined Hardik and played with confidence before an Adil Rashid googly saw him make his way back to the pavilion. Hardik got India close to the target but poked his bat to a ball outside off as the visitors collapsed to 162-all out, handing England a 31 run victory in the opening Test.

The second Test will begin on August 9 at Lord’s.