England finally broke Virat Kohli‘s resistance to secure a 31-run victory over India after a titanic struggle in their 1,000th Test match.
Ben Stokes (four for 40) delivered the telling blows on the fourth morning of the Specsavers series opener at Edgbaston, where Kohli appeared to be leading his team home after adding a second-innings half-century to his tour de force 149 at his first attempt.
But in his first over after replacing James Anderson at the City End, Stokes had the India captain lbw playing across his pad for 51, and then doubled up with the wicket of Mohammed Shami – fencing a catch behind.
Hardik Pandya emerged instead as the only threat to England, but he was last out in a total of 162 when he edged Stokes to Alastair Cook at slip.
India had resumed on 110 for five, with a target of 194 to win and Kohli the key in almost everyone’s mind.
Anderson gave England, and their expectant crowd, a fine start on a sunny morning, but it was not the wicket he told a press conference the previous evening he would go to bed dreaming about.
The immediate prize of Kohli was not to be, but second-best was Dinesh Karthik – ending a troublesome stand of 34 which had narrowed the margins while England’s bowlers tired on Friday.
It was heartening too that when Anderson found the edge, Dawid Malan was safe at second slip.
Malan had dropped Kohli on 21 in the first innings, as well as two others in the match.
But when he held Karthik, he took his ratio to 50-50, with three catches to offset his drops.
It was by design that England limited Kohli to nine deliveries in eight overs at the other end, but a straight-driven four by Pandya off Stuart Broad indicated he had found a plausible new partner.
Kohli brought up his patient, 88-ball half-century with just his fourth four – glanced fine off Anderson – and after two more driven boundaries by Pandya in Broad’s next over, England appeared to be running out of time.
Stokes was having none of that, however.
It took him just three balls to get Kohli, and another three to shift Shami and leave India needing a further 53 from their last two wickets.
At a venue which has seen its share of Test theatre over the years, notably England’s two-run victory over Australia in the 2005 Ashes, there was unsurprisingly still a little way to go.
England captain Joe Root displayed a gambler’s instinct when with 42 needed he brought on leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
It proved wise, though, as Rashid repaid his fellow Yorkshireman with a googly to have Ishant Sharma lbw – confirmed on review.
Then Stokes, who must report to Bristol Crown Court on Monday morning to answer a charge of affray and will therefore miss the second Test at Lord’s, signed off with the last wicket.
India seamer Ishant has been fined 15 per cent of his match fee, and received a demerit point, after a Level 1 breach of the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct for his provocative celebration of Malan’s wicket in England’s second innings.
It’s all to play for on the fourth day, with the opening Test between England and India finely poised at Edgbaston.
Virat Kohli (43) and Dinesh Karthik (18) return to the crease as the tourists look to build on their overnight score of 110-5 and chip away at the required 84 runs to claim victory. For England, the equation is simple with five more wickets needed to triumph.
Inside the first hour, England made an instant impact with James Anderson removing Dinesh Karthik. Kohli looked in fine touch but England got their dangerman when the Indian captain was trapped lbw by Ben Stokes for 51.
Stokes then removed Mohammed Shami while Adil Rashid trapped Ishant Sharma for lbw, leaving England needing just one wicket to win.
It was only a matter of time and eight runs later, Stokes completed the 31-run victory when the all-rounder dismissed Hardik Pandya for 31.
The Test match has provided plenty of drama – will there be more in the final few hours? Follow our Live Scores link below for all the twists and turns from Birmingham.
The 29-year-old batsman scored his first Test century on English soil on Thursday when he hit 149 in a masterclass innings as India reached 274 in their reply to 287.
Kohli is unbeaten on 43 in the second innings going into the fourth day on Saturday with the tourists needing 84 runs for victory and having five wickets in hand.
Earlier this summer, Kohli had signed up for a pre-tour stint with Surrey only for a neck injury to rule him out. But former India skipper Gavaskar feels it’s the other Indian batsmen who must consider playing county cricket after their poor showings in Birmingham so far.
“Kohli made a mockery of the thinking that he needed to play county cricket to get a big score in England,” Gavaskar wrote in his column for Times of India.
“Kohli is an exceptional talent and can get runs even if he wakes up in the middle of the night.
“More than him, it is the other guys who have lesser talent who needed to spend more time playing against the red ball, as was seen by the way they struggled against the moving ball.
“Even if India go on to win the Test and the series, the decision to play just one three-day game in the fortnight’s gap has clearly not helped the other batsmen. More than Kohli, it’s the others who need more time against the red ball. Kohli can’t rescue the team every time.”