Drama at Lords Test-Sitting Ninety overs on a sit and bigger excitement than T20!
On my journey to the Lord’s cricket ground, the cab driver, making a face, casually passed a statement in his half-baked English, “Test matches are boring. No fun. No excitement. How you can you sit at one place for 90 overs.”
For a Test cricket romantic like me, my fuse instantly went through the roof, “What is cricket according to you.” I shot back. “Sir, fours and sixes.Twenty overs, 200 runs, normal Sir.”
“Spot on”, I said sarcastically, and decided to ignore him sensing his cricket aptitude. After a few moments of silence, he again tried to show-off his cricketing acumen, “Sir, this match draw sir. After five days, no result, Test cricket boring, sir.”
My irritation reached a boiling point, “Let’s wait and watch.”, I replied, keeping my emotions in check. To add to my misery, I had booked a return journey, and my tolerance level had already reached my threshold.
As soon as I reached the destination, I stormed out of the cab and sprinted my way to the stadium. The atmosphere was electrifying, sensing something special was cooking in the mind of the cricket gods. England were in the driving seat when the day started and once they got the prized asset of Pant, they were ruling the roost, thoughts wandering towards another victory.
But, then came a big twist in this five day tale. As soon as Bumrah stepped out, emotion and passion took over England’s sound mind, bowling a barrage of bouncers as a retribution to Bumrah’s bullets shot at Anderson in that 10-ball over on the third day. In that moment, England forgot the basic fundamentals and the game slipped out of their hands like a quicksand.
In Snakes and Ladders parlance, England while on 99, unfortunately stepped on two fired-up snakes in Bumrah and Shami, and lost the plot completely, the field placements suggested as if they were bowling to Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd. Shami even started to have fun at the end using his long handle against Moen Ali to notch his second fifty. The direction of the wind dramatically changed. England from being favorites suddenly found themselves battling for survival.
Ultimately, it again came down to Joe Root to anchor the sinking ship. He was a batting in a different strip and in the first innings he made batting look so easy, that it felt as if it was art at one end and struggle at the other. In the second essay, he ran out of steam, and once he went, the cracks became wide open and India smelled blood. Buttler tried valiantly, but a rampaging Siraj was too hot to handle on the day, and his fiery spell at the end put the final nail in England’s coffin.
The crowd absolutely went berserk, and it felt as if Wankhede had superimposed on Lords. This defeat would hurt England the most, as they were in the driving seat, but they let the match slip out of their hands.
That’s the beauty of Test cricket, when two quality pugilists throw punches at each other, it never ceases to enthrall you.
India won the first day handsomely, England dominated the next couple of days, India clawed their way back on the fourth, and England capitulated on the fifth.
The groundwork of this victory was laid down by two understated, unsung servants of Indian cricket, Pujara and Rahane when India’s back was against the wall. There were whispers about their Test career being on the line but these two strong characters with a rock-solid mind put another masterclass of Test match batting digging India out of a precarious hole with a lead of meager 28 runs, and their best batsman in the hut.On those two had rested India’s fate, and boy, the two pals didn’t disappoint, trusting their old school technique and methods.
Rahane was nimble enough to change his stance in the second innings. Pujara was unfazed throughout his innings. Crowd was having fun at his expense, but his stubborn mind wasn’t going to let that affect him, and at the end of his vigil, those taunts turned into applause, appreciating his boxer’s instincts to absorb pressure but not lie down.
A word on India’s fast bowlers as well. Adjectives that come to my mind are relentless and ruthless.If few years back, you had told me that Indian pace quartet would bowl an opposition out in 60 overs, I wouldn’t have believed you.
While rerlturning from Lord’s, the same cab driver, having to eat his words, was caught in a soup, ” How did India win sir. I thought it would a dull draw.”, I just plainly replied with a wide smile, ” That’s Test cricket for you. It will always remain the pinnacle.”
Lords has a different vibe in its air for cricket. It was a privilege to watch this great spectacle called Test cricket live at its spiritual home. We can have all the T20 leagues in the world, but nothing can match the excitement, tension, drama, theater of a five day attrition battle.