Saturday, December 20, 2008


England bounce back as India bundled for 453 runs

With the help a 314-run stand between Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid, India on Saturday finished their first innings with a total of 453 runs on the board against England in Mohali. Bad light again played a spoilsport and stumps were called before England could start the chase on the second day. Gambhir, who had slammed fourth Test hundred on Friday to raise his second consecutive hundred at the PCA Stadium, became the fourth Indian to complete 1000 Test runs in the calendar year. Other three batsmen to achieve this feat are - Virender Sehwag (1445), VVS Laxman (1071) and Sachin Tendulkar (1047).Dravid came out of his prolonged slump to slam his detractors with a hundred. The former India captain, who averages 32 in 2008 in comparison to his career average of 52, slammed 26th hundred that is his fourth against England. His second hundred of the year came after nineteen Test innings as his last hundred came in March against South Africa (111) in Chennai.The duo of Dravid and Gambhir resumed batting with their overnight score of 179/1 on Saturday and added 314 runs for the second wicket. This was the highest partnership by any Indian pair for the second wicket. Their stay frustrated English bowlers who went wicketless in the first session.However, they bowlers were rewarded for their hard work and picked four wickets after lunch. England spinner Graeme Swann not only broke the lethal partnership but also picked three wickets. The first to depart was the Indian opener Gambhir. Gambhir came out to drive a short pitched delivery but the ball took the top edge of his bat and flew into the hands of Alastair Cook at short third man region for 179 runs.Dravid fell 22 balls later as Swann's next victim when he tried to clear the long-on boundary through the aerial route. He lofted the ball across the line to find Monty Panesar at mid-off. He went for 136 runs. Their dismissal brought 'hero' of the Chennai Test Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman out in the middle. Tendulkar tried to play sweep-turned-paddle but was struck on the front pad for 11 runs to walk back as Swann's third wicket. Laxman too was trapped in front of the wicket as an Andrew Flintoff-delivery rapped him on the pad. He fell without any addition to the score.Local boy Yuvraj Singh, who made his Test debut in Mohali in 2003, made 27 runs and added 40 runs with Dhoni for the sixth wicket before falling to Panesar. Indian skipper Dhoni too made an early exit. He tried to loft the ball but was caught by Owais Shah (substitute fielder) at midwicket for 29 runs.Panesar came back to see Harbhajan back in the hut for 24 runs. The Indian tailender went for a biggie but found Swann at mid-off. Zaheer fell as Flintoff's second victim as he lost his leg stump while trying to play a short stuff across the line. He made just seven runs. The English all-rounder wrapped the Indian innings with the wicket of Amit Mishra who was bowled for 23 runs.English openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss came out to begin the chase but poor light conditions saw them return without facing a single delivery. The third day's play will start on Sunday at 9:00 IST.

Rahul Dravid 26th Test century

After a year when the words "wall", "falling" and "crumbling" were never far from the headlines, Rahul Dravid could have been forgiven for thinking he had become Humpty Dumpty, instead of the most prolific No.3 batsman the world has ever seen. It really had been a wretched 2008, with 669 runs from 14 Tests before he arrived in Mohali. This, remember, was the man who made more than 600 runs in series in Australia and England when he was in his prime.

There were no clenched fists or frenzied waves of the bat when he reached his century on Saturday, but the man who sat behind the microphones later in the day looked like someone who had finally seen the light after weeks of confinement in an underground cave. "There was no statement," he said when asked about the muted celebrations for his 26th century. "I was just happy. I'm older and wiser now. I don't jump around and get excited.

"I'm relieved. It's nice to be contributing again. It's been a tough year, and it's good to make an important contribution, especially with the conditions that we've had in this game."

The partnership with Gautam Gambhir was worth 314 runs in 107.5 overs, its significance evident when the next highest stand was 40 runs. "Hopefully, it will be a match-winning partnership," Dravid said. "Gautam batted beautifully and took the pressure off me. He rotated the strike and was positive against both the pace bowlers and spinners. He's having a phenomenal year."

England fought back spiritedly after breaking that partnership, but they should also be worried at how subsequent batsmen failed to make much headway on a pitch that's sure to play a few tricks over the next three days. "At 300 for 1, we were looking around, wondering where we were going to get a wicket from," said Graeme Swann, who along with the indefatigable Andrew Flintoff was the pick of the bowlers. "The way Dravid played, he hardly gave us any chance. He was exceptional."

Dravid himself couldn't really pinpoint a reason for the turnaround. "This year, I've tried everything," he said with a laugh, when asked if he'd gone back to videos or books to get out of the slump. "I watched a few old videos of me batting well to recreate some of those emotions and feelings.

"But the last two series, I've just enjoyed each net session, trusted my instincts and watched the ball.