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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

England's 1,000th Test may not save five-day game, but it will live long in memory

Game ebbed and flowed, it was coloured by true greatness in form of Virat Kohli, and it was littered with lasting images

Maybe Edgbaston 2018 will not save Test cricket. Two of the game’s wealthiest and best supported sides, meeting at a venue which has long-adored the long-form, is not exactly where the problems lie.

And perhaps the old format will not, in the end, live long enough to see England play another 1,000 Test matches. Who knows.

But their 1,000th will, at the very least, live long in the memory. It ebbed and flowed. It was coloured by true greatness in the form of the incomparable Virat Kohli. And it was littered with the sort of lasting images that only Test cricket provides.

Sam Curran’s six to go to 50 off the immaculate Ravichandran Ashwin as the youngster turned the game for the home team on Friday afternoon? It might as well have gone into the confectionery stall and out again, a la Ian Botham at Headingley in 1981.

England captain Joe Root, right, shakes hands with Hardik Pandya after the game at Edgbaston on Saturday. Getty Images
England captain Joe Root, right, shakes hands with Hardik Pandya after the game at Edgbaston on Saturday. Getty Images

Joe Root breaking off from the euphoria at the end and chasing a crestfallen Hardik Pandya to offer a conciliatory handshake? That one brought to mind the photograph from 2005 that so well encapsulated sportsmanship, when Andrew Flintoff was down on his haunches to commiserate with Brett Lee after the Ashes classic at the same venue.

Presumably Root might be able to dine out on that story for years to come, in much the same way Flintoff has done. What, precisely, was he saying? “It’s 1-0!” Root might have been claiming, with some extra descriptive words thrown in, if he follows the Flintoff after-dinner shtick.

Ben Stokes on his knees, arms akimbo to toast Kohli’s dismissal? Take your pick from any late-vintage image Flintoff in Ashes heroism mode.

Ashwin’s breathtaking double dismissal of Cook, which was the first time in 157 matches the England opener has been bowled twice in a Test? Perhaps they were not quite exactly a mirror image of Shane Warne’s Ball of the Century to Mike Gatting. But, squint and they were similar.

And the moment that, in all likelihood, decided the outcome felt historic, too. Virat Kohli missed one! He actually really did. Saturday August 4, 2018. Remember the day.

Stokes bowled it. Kohli, almost unbelievably, played around it and was trapped lbw. England had the match in their grip from then on, no matter what Pandya could muster.

Afterwards Curran, the man of the match for his game-turning half-century and five wickets, said he thought he was dreaming. Stokes said it meant so much. Even Kohli suggested it was lovely, despite being on the losing side, to get the chance to play such enthralling sport as this.

Until moments earlier, the two sides had been all been at daggers drawn. Ishant Sharma earned a rebuke from the match referee for his send-off of Dawid Malan on Day 3.

Kohli had also sailed close to the wind with a send-off on Day 1. Yet he and Root, who was on the receiving end, chatted apparently amiably at the close, too.

Indian Premier League (IPL) friendships fell by the wayside. Stokes and Pandya exchanged a verbal volley, with the Englishman supported by Jos Buttler. Pandya and Buttler had been teammates at Mumbai Indians in the IPL until this year.

Ishant Sharma got stuck into Dawid Malan after dismissing him in Edgbaston. Getty Images
Ishant Sharma got stuck into Dawid Malan after dismissing him in Edgbaston. Getty Images

It was little wonder Stokes appeared emotionally spent after bowling the hosts to a 1-0 head start in the five-match series. It is unclear how much of the remainder of the series he will be available for. His trial for affray gets underway at Bristol Crown Court on Monday.

"It's great to be a part of this game, but I don't know … I don't know what to be feeling right now," Stokes said in a television interview as he walked from the field.

He reflected on the importance of the dismissal of Kohli. The Indian captain added 51 to the 149 he made in the first innings, as he almost single-handedly hauled the tourists through the match.

"Moments like that change the game in these tight ones,” Stokes said of Kohli’s wicket. “I'm proud to be part of this group, playing for England means so much, and it's a great start to this tough five-match series.

"Being 1-0 up we're in the box seat at the moment."