Stokes provides the star turn in a thriller


“Oh Jimmy, Jimmy. Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy Anderson.”

The Edgbaston crowd knew their best ever bowler needed to on top of his game if England were to win this. As Anderson marked his run-up to start the first over of the day, he had thousands at the crowd chanting his name, pushing him to make an immediate impact.

If ever there was a need for another advert for Test cricket, there it was. The match on a knife’s edge, with the match’s best batsman against four in-form, feisty fast bowlers. A heady climax was on the cards, and Edgbaston was on the seat’s edge to soak it all up. Anderson responded to the crowd’s egging by scalping Dinesh Karthik in the first over of the day, setting him up with an inswinger before having him edge to second slip. The match was still not over though, with Kohli still battling on.

As it turned out, England sneaked through by 31 runs. With Ben Stokes providing the star turn. He perhaps knew it was his last chance to. He would miss the next game because of the court case, and had not done too well with the bat. As soon as he was handed the ball, he took out the big fish. Two outswingers to Virat Kohli followed by the inswinger. Kohli looked to flick, missed and Stokes was down on his knees celebrating a massive, massive wicket.

Kohli had only just gotten to his fifty, following up the 149 he made in the last innings. And he could only, ever so slowly, drag himself off the field. He patted Hardik Pandya as he walked off, after a desperate review that was hoping against hope, encouraging him to make it India’s game.

Pandya did his best. He had earlier showed that he had some shots up his sleeve. Two gun-straight drives off Stuart Broad, and a fine flick taking the ball from outside off stump. But when Stokes got his second in the over by getting Mohammed Shami caught behind for nought, Hardik’s task just got much, much harder.

Graeme Swann was as tense as everyone else at the ground. “My sweaty palms tell me that there is another twist in the game. All the great, close games have them,” he said. And sure enough, the game headed that way. Ishant Sharma edged and nudged his way, and with two boundaries from his bat off Stokes, India needed less than 50.

The heartbeats were louder now. Stokes had a go at Pandya, and the Indian all-rounder was not averse to shouting back.

Root came up with a ballsy move to change the momentum. Adil Rashid, talked about endlessly ahead of the game, had had minimal impact on the game so far. Against Ishant, he made his biggest. A sharp googly caught Ishant plumb in front, even if umpire Chris Gaffaney didn’t think so. DRS righted that wrong. England were one wicket away. India needed 40 more.

Pandya slammed Stokes over mid-off, before clipping Rashid for two. He was mostly up against a fully spread out field so could only take his chances at the end of the over. Stokes delivered the telling final blow. Hardik poked outside off, and Cook held on gleefully.

England were understandably overjoyed with the win. They had to fight tooth and nail, and did just about enough to win. For India, Hardik Pandya’s reaction after the final wicket said it all. He walked away towards the dressing room, head down and almost disbelievingly, before realising almost towards the end that he’d forgotten to shake hands with the opposition. He turned back again.

He knew how close they’d gotten.

Stokes, on the other hand, was engulfed in bear hugs from all his team mates. He had stood up when England needed a hero. He had helped them go 1-0 up. England will hope they find another like him for the next Test.

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