Wow. If that First Test between India and England at Edgbaston was an indicator of the state of the Test cricket format, then we need to have no fears about the future of the longer game. The format, on this showing, is in rude health – and more than capable of serving up four days of captivating, enthralling cricket. The game at Edgbaston had everything, and swung this way and that over the course of a gripping match.
A great advert for Test cricket
Revered Indian cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle described it as “One of the best Test matches I’ve ever watched’ – and I’d imagine he has watched a lot of them over the years. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying it’s the best one I’ve ever watched – I’d argue that a match like Australia vs West Indies at the Adelaide Oval, back in 1993, with one of the most devastating bowling displays I’ve ever seen, might run it close – but I’m not going to argue too much with Mr Bhogle. It was an absolute cracker.
One of the phrases that you often hear used by fans of the Test cricket format is ‘ebb and flow’. It’s something that the very best Test matches have and, many would argue, the shorter formats lack. It comes with that sense that the crucial 20 extra runs added on by a tailender in the dying light of the first day can change the tide for the whole of the next match, only for everything to be turned back the other way by a dropped catch or an unexpected bit of swing that takes a crucial wicket. The format is long enough for wonderful stories to form and be resolved – and this match certainly had plenty of them.
The stars of the show
The first, for me, was all about the man who could arguably have laid claim to man of the match – Virat Kohli. He is clearly a genius at the crease – one of those players who can transform a match with a few elegant sweeps of the bat, and whose hundred in India’s first innings very nearly swung the game decisively India’s way. But it wasn’t enough, and Ben Stokes’ dismissal of the Indian star effectively put paid to India’s hopes of winning the game.
Of course Stokes – most likely conscious that he will miss the Second Test due to his impending court appearance – was keen to make an impact. He really is a truly impressive player – one of those all rounders who, for me, makes a difference not so much by the number of runs he scores or the wickets he takes, but more when he does it. His is always a crucial and timely contribution.
A match-winning performance
I do also need to reflect on the young man who did pick up the Man of the Match award at the end of this incredible game – Sam Curran. His performance with the ball and the bat was crucial – as his captain Joe Root said, “It is just like having two Ben Stokeses.” That is some compliment to pay such a young player, but he certainly deserved it, taking important wickets and scoring vital runs when his team needed him most.
England might need him to put in yet another match winning performance at Lords for the second match of this five game series however, with Stokes missing and England looking to consolidate their advantage. If it is anywhere near as enthralling as the First Test was, we’re in for an absolute treat.