The best of Tests: On Hyderabad, Brisbane and some cricketing magic 

Test cricket showcases skill better, but is not short of excitement 

Updated - January 30, 2024 09:24 am IST

Published - January 30, 2024 12:15 am IST

Hyderabad and Brisbane are split by an aerial distance of 9,443 kilometres and yet on Sunday, the two cities were seemingly fused together through some cricketing magic. The old sporting trope of the underdog toppling the fancied rival was again in play as England at Hyderabad and the West Indies at Brisbane, respectively humbled their potent hosts India and Australia. Test cricket, often lost in the stardust and breathless hype that permeates its younger and faster siblings, ODIs and T20Is, found its mojo and again reiterated its durability and the potential to alter scripts and presumptions. At Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, England conceded a 190-run first innings lead to India and on a surface tipped to aid spin, it was deemed that Ben Stokes and his Bazball troops were down for the count. However, in the second innings tussle, Ollie Pope’s splendid 196 and left-arm spinner Tom Hartley’s seven for 62 left India stranded by 28 runs while chasing a target of 231. Pope’s sweeps, both conventional and reverse, employed against the Indian spinners were effective, and debutant Hartley, whose first ball in Test cricket was hammered for a six by Yashasvi Jaiswal, made a stirring comeback in the second dig to hoodwink Rohit Sharma’s men. England now leads the five match series at 1-0.

The absence of Virat Kohli, due to personal reasons, did leave a vacuum in the middle order even as the other batters, including K.L. Rahul, tried hard to bridge that gap. England spinners choking Indian batters in their backyard is not new as Phil Edmonds and Pat Pocock showed in 1984, and Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in 2012. As the series shifts to Visakhapatnam, India will have to find a method to reiterate its dominance. Meanwhile at Brisbane’s Gabba, it was the turn of another debutant to prosper. Despite an injured toe, Shamar Joseph’s fiery pace and his second innings tally of seven for 68 blew away the Australians, who pursued a target of 216. The eight-run triumph helped the West Indies draw level the two-Test series at 1-1. The stalemate hinted at the need for a minimum of three Tests to judge teams and find the real victor. The men from the Caribbean have floundered in the past, but the latest result hints at a turnaround. The West Indies had its sunshine phases in limited overs cricket, winning the ICC Champions Trophy in 2004 and the ICC T20 World Cups in 2012 and 2016. Sunday’s Test victory offers a fresh path laden with hope for the West Indies.

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