Joe Root glowed with pride at England’s skill and resilience as they edged a thrilling win over India in their landmark 1,000th Test.
Root, the orchestrator of an outstanding collective that prevailed by 31 runs on the fourth morning at Edgbaston, rightly proclaimed a wonderfully absorbing contest as a “fabulous advert” for Test cricket.
It was an important staging post too for his captaincy, and crucial for his development in the role.
He is still just a year into his tenure, but after such a chastening Ashes winter it said plenty that England held their nerve to go 1-0 up on the fourth morning of this Specsavers series opener.
After Ben Stokes (4-40) had turned the outcome with a spell of 3-15 – including the prized wicket of Virat Kohli – Root had praise for his premier all-rounder, 20-year-old aspirant Sam Curran, after his man-of-the-match performance and old-stagers James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Asked if it all added up to the best match he has played in the Yorkshireman said: “It’s up there.
“It is a fabulous advert for the game of cricket, isn’t it?
“Anyone that says it’s dead can just come and watch this on repeat. What a game.
“I’m still trying soak it all in, but it was a fabulous team performance.”
India needed 84 runs from their last five wickets, with Kohli unbeaten on 43, when they resumed on Saturday morning.
Root said: “I spoke to the boys at the start and said, ‘Just go out there with that belief, desire that you have done the previous two days in the field’ – and they didn’t disappoint.
“I couldn’t be prouder of that.
“That’s all you can ask as a captain ... the guys to do as you ask, and under pressure to stay as calm as we did.
“Whenever you play in close games like this, you desperately want to be on the right side of it for so many reasons – but one thing that really stands out for me is that inner drive and determination from this group of players.”
Kohli appeared to be taking the game away, but Stokes had him lbw for 51 in his first over, added a second wicket three balls later and finished the match when Hardik Pandya was caught-behind to leave India 162 all out.
“Stokesy’s got that knack, hasn’t he?” said Root.
“He wants to be involved in the big moments of the game, and he did just that.”
This morning, Stokes must report to Bristol Crown Court after pleading not guilty to affray.
But Root confirmed no one could have guessed there was anything but cricket on his mind here.
“Ben seems himself,” he said.
“He’s gone about things exactly how he was in every other game – and I don’t see that ever changing.
“When he turns up to practice or as soon as he puts on an England shirt he’s so dedicated to this group of players, to this team – and whatever happens he’s going to be a big part of this dressing room.”
Stokes said that England’s performance had perhaps “closed a few mouths” following recent criticism.
His captain compared Curran’s youthful “steeliness” to that of Stokes.
Curran’s father Kevin was an international all-rounder who collapsed and died while out jogging five years before sons Tom and now Sam began their England careers. His youngest son said: “I was still young when it did happen, but I’ve got a very strong family – both my brothers, we’re all very close, and my mum’s very supportive of all our cricket.
“It has been pretty tough.
“(But) I think it made us stronger as a family and me stronger as a person.
“I think I’ve learned as I’ve grown up, with two very competitive brothers in the back-garden cricket, ‘Don’t give them anything,’ and I try to take that on to the pitch.”
Kohli, meanwhile, must regroup in time for next week’s second Test at Lord’s despite his personal heroics here.
He said: “There were a couple of times when we made comebacks and I felt that we showed character there – but a team like England will not let you do that every day of a Test match, and we realised that on the final day.
“We could have applied ourselves better, but I’m still proud of the fight we showed.”
Kohli has replaced Steve Smith as the world’s best Test batsman, according to the latest International Cricket Council player rankings.
Kohli’s knocks of 149 and 51 in India’s defeat to England in the first Test at Edgbaston have taken him above the former Australia captain, still banned from international cricket over his role in the ball-tampering scandal on the tour of South Africa in March.
It is the first time the 29-year-old, also the No 1 ranked one-day international batsman, has topped the Test rankings, ending Smith’s 32-month reign at the summit.
He is the first Indian to do so since Sachin Tendulkar in June 2011.