“History is stacked against them. Virat Kohli and his men surely need to put on something special to make a match out of it here”
The memories of Edgbaston, 2011, are still nightmarish for the Indian fans.
That was the Test when the humiliation of India in that forgettable series reached the nadir. Only skipper MS Dhoni hit a couple of 70s, Sachin Tendulkar fought hard in the second innings scoring 40 flawless runs before a straight drive from the skipper was deflected on to the stumps catching him out of ground. Those were the meagre positives. India folded for a couple of scores under 250, in front of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and the others. In the only England innings, Alastair Cook batted 773 minutes, four hours more than the two Indian innings combined, amassing 294. The England total amounted to 710 for 7.
Yes, England had demolished India by an innings and 242 runs in that Test.
But the story of English success and Indian woes at this venue go far beyond that.
Edgbaston has been an English stronghold for a long, long time. They have played here 50 times, winning 27 and losing only 8.
In fact, in the last 16 years, the hosts have won 9 and lost just 1.
They have remained unbeaten here since 2008.
Yes, there have been close encounters, like the classic of 2005 when Steve Harmison got Michael Kasprowicz caught down the leg side to clinch a 2-run victory in a heart-stopping encounter.
But, in general, England have won by huge margins in the recent past.
Pakistan were trounced by 9 wickets in 2010, India by that infamous innings and 242 runs, Australia by 8 wickets in 2015, Pakistan again by 141 runs in 2016 and West Indies by an innings and 209 runs in 2017. In this decade only the Test against West Indies ended in a draw after the first two days as well as the fifth were washed out by rain.
It is indeed the best venue England could have picked for the start of the high-voltage series.
The ball swings in these parts, and it is the favourite hunting ground of Anderson. He leads the wickets tally with 40 in 9 Tests at 21.92. Broad too has had his moments here, with 27 wickets in 6 Tests at an even better 21.00. English swing bowlers from Chris Old to Ian Botham to Andy Caddick have all enjoyed bowling in these conditions. And thereby, most visiting sides have struggled out here.
|Stats stacked in favour of England at Edgbaston|
|England since 2002||13||9||1||9.00|
|England vs India||6||5||0||–|
The Indians have played here 6 times, losing 5 of those encounters.
They stuttered at the very start, losing a one-sided encounter in 1967, bowled out for 92 in the first innings.
In the disastrous tour of 1974, they were blown away by the relentless swing of Geoff Arnold, Chris Old, Mike Hendricks and Tony Greig. Sunil Gavaskar fell to the first ball of the match, and lasted 8 balls in the second knock, as England lost just 2 wickets in the innings and 78 run triumph.
Botham, Hendricks and Willis did the trick in 1979, with David Gower’s 200 and Geoff Boycott’s 155 ensuring another big innings win.
India lost in 1996 as well, falling away to Chris Lewis, Dominic Cork and Alan Mullally. The match did witness a second-innings gem by Sachin Tendulkar, who hit a supreme 122 in another of his one-man-army shows … with the second-highest score in the innings amounting to 18. However, the rest of the batting was just not up to the task.
And we have already talked about the 2011 debacle.
In fact, the only time India did not lose a Test here was in 1986, when the two teams were locked in a tense draw. However, that was the tour in which India went into the third Test at Birmingham 2-0 up, and still found themselves struggling at 104 for 5 while going for a target of 236. They finished at 174 for 5, with Mohammad Azharuddin and Kiran More playing out the last two hours.
Edgbaston has always been a difficult venue for India. And a fantastic one for England.
Besides, India will start without the cream of their formidable pace bowling attack, with both Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah sitting out.
However, there is also a tiny glimmer of hope that seems to be indicated by the statistics.
Among the spinners, Shane Warne, with 25 wickets at 21.76, has been successful here. But, that can be as much due to the mental block of English batsman as caused by the help of the turf. But, men like Tony Lock and Ray Illingworth in the remote past, Phil Edmonds and Eddie Hemmings in the distant pastas well as Muttiah Muralitharan in the recent past have managed good hauls here. Hence, there can be something on offer for whoever plays among Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.
History is stacked against them. Virat Kohli and his men surely need to put on something special to make a match out of it here.