Tuesday, Aug 13, 2002
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By G. Viswanath
Rahul Dravid, who scored a century, and skipper Sourav Ganguly at a mid-pitch conference. Photo: N. Sridharan
Technically Parthiv Patel will have to wait for another eight months before he can exercise his franchise, but there ought not to be two opinions that when England had a reasonable chance of forcing a win in the post tea session he came good in nerve-racking pressure conditions.
Replacing his captain Sourav Ganguly in the middle when almost 32 overs had to be bowled, Patel contributed a most valuable and undefeated 19. He walked briskly to the crease to face a delivery from Harmison, who had made him fend a high catch to Andrew Flintoff in the first innings for a duck. The first left-handed batsman wicketkeeper to play for India, Patel, did not turn out to be a sitting duck for Harmison again. He took his guard from umpire Rudi Koertzen played out the overs and then took charge of the proceedings for 82 minutes before the two teams decided to shake hands.
When another 10 overs remained, Patel and Zaheer Khan had faced 76 balls and put on an undefeated 28 for the ninth wicket after Harmison had fired a full toss that uprooted the off stump from its base. Until the last hour on Monday, bright batting had dominated play on the brightest day in five with India's top three batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, contributing 306 runs to average 102.
After Harmison had broken through the defence of the Indian captain looking for a single to complete a memorable ninth Test century in 60 Tests, England pressed home, but the Indian tail-enders held on gamely to save defeat after the two umpires had adjudged Dravid and Ajit Agarkar leg before. Before Patel and Zaheer's last-ditch effort, India's middle order boasting of three world-class batsmen warmed the cockles of many a heart, putting their best foot forward.
It was a day they faced the sternest test of the tour. The likes of Tendulkar, who missed his 30th Test century by eight runs, Dravid, who scored his first century against England and 11th overall, and Ganguly, who missed his century by just one run, scored points and came out with flying colours.
Playing their natural game was a high point in the three batsmen's approach, which not only saw time being consumed, but also plenty of runs being scored. After Dravid and Tendulkar had almost seen through the first session, Ganguly and Dravid got into the act to put on 135 for the fourth wicket before umpire Rudi Koertzen handed out a favourable decision for England when Dominic Cork yelled an appeal for leg before.
After the three batsmen had done all the hard work India was up by 55 runs at tea. England claimed the second new ball after 82 overs, but there was no demon in the pitch to give Matthew Hoggard and the other fast bowlers much encouragement. At tea India had literally warded off the threat of proceeding to Leeds for the third Test with no hopes of staying in the series.
After leading England in the three-Test series against India during which he brought to the fore the calculated application of restrictive devices against Tendulkar, Hussain has become predictable. On Sunday evening, when Tendulkar was in full flow, he became the centrepiece subject while ordering personnel to positions at short mid-wicket and short square point, all perhaps meant to distract Tendulkar.
On Monday morning, when his fast bowlers were fresh, he asked Andrew Flintoff to bowl around the wicket and bounce at Tendulkar and Dravid. Not by any stretch of imagination can Flintoff be described as a tearaway paceman. But he is more than a utility fast medium bowler who obeys his master's command by running in fast and digging balls short well outside the off stump while bowling over the wicket and slanting it across and bowling short while bowling around the wicket. All he managed to do was throw Dravid off balance a few times because of the unpredictability of the pitch. Dravid had made up his mind to bend away from the short balls.
For once the sun appeared promptly at dawn in all its glory and with expectations of an England victory becoming stronger after Hoggard and Flintoff had dismissed the Indian openers on Sunday evening, the seats at the Trent Bridge ground was almost fully occupied with the price of daily tickets reduced to £10 and £5 and children being given free entry.
If any one looked like getting a wicket, it was Hoggard, who grew up in Leeds learning the skill to make use of the seam. Twice he beat Dravid in his first spell, but the Indian came back strongly cover driving him to post his half-century.
Essential to India surviving the day was the way Tendulkar and Dravid shaped against the all-seam attack of England. It took 17 minutes for Tendulkar to stand up on his backfoot, balance himself and punch Flintoff past Steve Harmison at widish mid-on. Immediately, Hussain ordered John Crawley to short-leg, Dominic Cork to mid-wicket and positioned men at deep square-leg and long-leg. But Tendulkar did not fall into the trap. With the ball losing its hardness, Hoggard did not derive much off the pitch and neither did Flintoff, though he persisted hard maintaining a tidy line and length. The slowness of the pitch gave ample time for the third-wicket pair to prolong their partnership well beyond the 100 mark.
Tendulkar followed up his 11 boundary shots on Sunday with half a dozen 4s today. Cork was the bowler to suffer most as he drove, cut and glanced him for three straight 4s in the 31st over. Cover driving Man-of-the-match Michael Vaughan for his 17th four was as attractive as any other shot he played in front of the wicket, but the inducement to get to his first century that would have taken him past Don Bradman's 29, turned out to be fatal.
By adding 163 for the third wicket, Dravid and Tendulkar had almost made certain that England would have some target to chase in the event of India being bowled out, but the dismissal of Tendulkar at 92, with India 86 runs adrift of wiping out the lead gave a toehold for England to look for a win.
It was the first time in 158 innings he was bowled by an off-spinner. Channel 4 cleared doubts of Vaughan having overstepped the popping crease. It appeared a classic off-spinner's wicket, with Vaughan tossing the ball up, getting the ball to curve and break in after pitching. The ball hit just above the middle of the off stump. Vaughan's success off his 20th ball and a few minutes before the lunch interval was a big breakthrough.
Hussain had shuffled his seamers around, but hopes of running through the Indian batting a second time got buried in the docile pitch.
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