They talked about it in the hotel lift, then into the foyer. Which would come first – 84 runs or five wickets? The outcomes bandied around varied: from James Anderson getting Virat Kohli in the opening 15 minutes, to Kohli sealing the game on his own by lunch. England can’t let Kohli bat through the first hour, said one punter. In the end, he didn’t, but they did not know that then. Eventually, the predictions spilled out onto Broad Street which had just about recovered from a typicalFridaynight.
Just as you do in the middle of any city, you get a sense of the revelry that has befallen. Now, because of this unique UK heatwave, the stale stench of a night out lingers in the air that little bit longer, too. Mixed in with the expectations of one of the most climactic finishes to a Test match in recent memory, it created a heady cocktail. It’s something of a house special in these parts.
Edgbaston has a knack of putting on the Test matches you talk about for a lifetime. The kind that generally just need a bit of a nudge to stir something in you, such as “Botham 81” and “2005” or “Flintoff v Kallis”. For every Edgbaston classic is a Broad Street celebration.
The street runs through the centre of Birmingham, stretching North-East to South-West, connecting the city’s nightlife in such a way that you can gauge how your evening is going by where you are on the strip. Generally, the further South you go, the further south your night. A few English cricketers are more than familiar with that particular part of town.
It was in the Australian themed bar, Walkabout, situated in the pits of the stretch, that Joe Root found himself at the centre of a kerfuffle three years ago after a Champions Trophy group match. His England teammates were with him, celebrating a win over Australia, themselves present with a disgruntled David Warner feeling punchy. Or so the reports go. The accounts from that night vary: one England player present was so out of it that he only heard something had happened the day after. One thing was for sure: none of them needed to be that far South. Least of all a future Test captain.
That particular bar has become something of an institution. Teams that participate in Finals Day – the grand finale of the English domestic Twenty20 season, with semi-finals at11 AM and 3 PMbefore the final at7 PM- often head there on a “losers first” basis. More often than not, the trophy makes an appearance, too. It is also a regular haunt of visiting teams.
On the night after day three, at the more sensible end of the road, a player and his respective teammates were not celebrating. But rather contemplating the challenge lay before them. After each pulsating day, the celebration as a fan came in reminiscing what you’d just witnessed. As a player, it was knowing you were part of something that only later will you truly be able to comprehend.
A few members of the Indian team were sat around relaxing and talking shop in an establishment so quiet that only their presence on an outside terrace suggested it was open. A few people recognised them, but so at peace were they that no one thought to disturb them. Only squad members Rishabh Pant and Kuldeep Yadav stopped to say hello, as they reached across the divide to prod Hardik Pandya, dressed in his familiar formal-casual attire but wearing an unfamiliar stern expression. Pandya, once the life and soul of the party, a man perhaps more in his element at the other end of the street, was content. Literally and figuratively, he was happy where he was.
At around12:33 PMon Saturday, Pandya is walking, head bowed, towards the changing room he had emerged from just six balls after the11 AMstart. At around11:48 AM, he lost Virat Kohli as a partner. It was Kohli who, before his Test debut, whipped Pandya into shape, bestowing unto him the virtues of moderation and discipline. Now it was time for Pandya to do it alone, without Kohli’s guidance. For the good of his team.
A few more dismissals and Pandya went from senior partner to the only hope in a flash. In the India dressing room, they crossed their fingers. If he can nail a couple out of the middle, as he did to almost devastating effect in last year’s Champions Trophy final, they’d be in with a shout. Even Ravichandran Ashwin, nerves of steel, couldn’t watch.
With 32 still needed, an attempted push through point is edged to Alastair Cook at first slip. And Pandya begins to walk off, as the crowd and the England players go wild behind him.
The 24-year-old gets to about 10-feet from the boundary rope when Root spots him. As his teammates continue to hand out fist pumps and high-fives, the England captain shouts: “Hardik!” After an Alan Patridge-esque number of attempts, Pandya hears his name and turns around somberly to see Root running away from the jubilation and towards him. The pair shake hands and embrace, exchanging “well playeds”. Both players in that moment, shunning the celebrations and acknowledging their respective parts in one of the first Test matches in a long time.
We may only find out further down the line if this is toasted with another Broad Street knees-up. With an extra day’s rest between now and the second Test at Lord’s, perhaps we can assume that it will, along with which side of the street they’ll end up on. Ah well. When in Birmingham…
As for the rest of us fans, commentators and commentators, just before we file this away into the “Edgbaston Classics” folder, what are we calling it? “Kohli v Anderson”? Maybe. Then again, “Curran ’18” has a nice ring to it…
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