England v India: Belief carrying hosts towards historic triumph
When faith is all you have, faith is all you need.
Yes, there is hype for the Bazball revolution in England, but simple cricket logic says chasing 378 to beat India in the fifth Test is a ridiculous proposition.
For all that England have ushered in a new era at just five weeks old, there was a nagging feeling that some things played into their hands in this series of victory over New Zealand.
A Colin de Grandhomme no-ball, injury to Kyle Jamieson, flat courts, the Black Caps rely on Trent Boult to take all their share in the third Test.
Yes, England was absolutely gorgeous, but New Zealand was the perfect dance partner. India will not fall for the same tricks – they are very skilled, very cunning, and very good.
England have injected such positivity into the game in this country. They swept us on a magical journey and made the impossible not only possible, but natural.
On Monday’s mania at Edgbaston, Birmingham believed that England set up the prospect of one of the greatest victories in its history. By reaching 259-3, they are close to a record chase for England in the Tests and the ninth highest in the game’s history.
This is the basis for Ian Bothham in 1981 (a sequel to his Headingley Championships) and the Ashes heart stopper for 2005. If England were to complete victory on Tuesday, this win would join the prodigies of the Midlands gods.
As impressive and seductive as their words were, England’s accomplishments would widen the limits of naivety.
Coach Brendon McCollum and Captain Ben Stokes encouraged us to worship at the altar of positivity, but it’s hard to give up freely.
After all, that’s pretty much the same group of players who’ve been exhausted over the course of 18 months, averaging just one simple win in 17 games. Any hope invested in England returned only with pain, misery and disappointment.
Pupils spread the word. Just this week manager Paul Collingwood insisted England were not afraid of anything they had to chase in the fourth rounds, James Anderson told us attacking would be the best form of defense and Jonny Birstow assured that they would follow whatever target was set.
“why not?” Birstow said.
There are 378 reasons why this should not happen, but to consider the possibility of failure a betrayal of McCollum-Stokes’ philosophy, which amounts to blasphemy cricket.
So, when England embarked on its monumental mission, Edgbaston became a sports cathedral full of devotees drinking in the good news and warm beer.
India had already by force of the will of England seized when they were expelled earlier in the day. Sentinels who should not pose any threat are compulsorily helped to wait for the poachers, before the tourists are ambushed by house editors Alex Lees and Zack Crowley.
The Lees’ nickname was “Haydos,” after the great Australian Matthew Hayden. Here he’d hit like modern-day Marcus Treskothic, drop a big front foot to bully bowlers, then sweep and reverse Ravindra Jadeja’s spin.
Crowley was the last England player to thrive this summer, but it was his mantra of supporting every player to the hilt when Stokes said before this test that the Kent man would get as many chances as he needed.
When he set off again in the first rounds, I felt that Stokes’ support was misplaced, only for Crowley to show he was finally learning. He showed an interest in quitting the ball and only played his trademark drives after a long stint in the wrinkle.
Due to the quality of his judgment, he felt so cruel that he threw his arms in to Jaspreet Bumrah.
England could have been derailed in 16 balls of chaos, their faith tested by three wickets for two times. Virat Kohli, pumping fists and howling with joy, had the devil on his shoulder.
However, at Bairstow and Joe Root, England have two test cricketers, and their freestyle recovery has stunned the Indians. Two dropped catches, and two reviews burned.
By the end, with England only 119 away from their target, India was begging to be dragged.
He left out a tantalizing proposition, an epilogue to be played in front of an entire outfit that took advantage of another great new trend in English cricket – free fifth-day tickets.
Amazingly, given the enormity of the goal, England will enter the final day as favourites, but India are just a few balls of dream destruction.
Even if England failed to do so, they covered themselves with glory and made another small gift for the audience who would fall in love with them again.
But thinking about defeat is not the way to win.
All you have to do is believe.