| Sourav Ganguly walks off after being given out lbw to Paul Collingwood at the Oval on Thursday. (AP)
London: Privately, the Indians have reservations over Steve Bucknor. At the Brit Oval on Thursday, though, Ian Howell’s howler left everybody — save Michael Vaughan and his men — aghast.
If England do make a miraculous recovery, then Sourav Ganguly’s ‘dismissal’ — given out leg-before despite his bat making contact with the Duke ball — is bound to be a turning point.
For Sourav, it was the second poor decision in three innings. At Trent Bridge, the damage had been caused by Simon Taufel. As Sourav walked off, after a solid 37 (India 276 for four), his wry smile didn’t leave anything unsaid.
The umpire-inflicted blow notwithstanding, India ended Day I of the third and final npower Test on an authoritative 316 for four. Rahul Dravid and Co. remain on course to claim the series.
At the wicket are Sachin Tendulkar, playing another dour knock, and V.V.S. Laxman — the newest entrant in the 5,000 club. The second new ball, by the way, is still quite fresh.
Sachin did get a life on 20 (dropped by the unimpressive Matt Prior off Ryan Sidebottom), but stood rooted when the England bowlers targeted his rib cage.
Clearly, Sachin has shown character and the longer he stays, the lesser England’s chances of forcing a win and drawing the series.
Coach Peter Moores, however, is hopeful. “We’ve got four days left... That’s a lot of cricket...”
Dravid did India (and himself) a big favour by winning the toss yet again. The openers, Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik, continued the good work by putting together another 50-plus partnership.
They collaborated 62, before Jaffer fell to a smart piece of captaincy from the usually shrewd Vaughan. Dravid and Karthik added 127 for the second-wicket, with the captain finally getting a fifty.
Dravid went to a swinging beauty from James Anderson on 189 and, with the classy Karthik getting a “small nick” on the threshold of what would’ve been his second Test century, ten runs later, England appeared to have clawed back.
Strangely, till the fourth hour, the ball had done little. An unexpected cloud cover, though, made the cherry do quite a bit. It’s then that Dravid and Karthik returned to the pavilion.
Karthik’s departure for 91 (218 minutes, 151 balls, 10x4, 1x6) brought the golden oldies — Sachin and Sourav — together. Another wicket and India’s advantage would’ve withered.
They held firm and would surely have seen through the day. But, then, Howell came into play.
Easily the day’s hero, Karthik’s band of supporters keeps swelling and his outstanding innings came just a day after former England captain David Gower picked him as one of the five batsmen to watch out for.
He began slowly but, once settled, didn’t let go of scoring opportunities. Particularly pleasing was the inside-out six off Monty Panesar.
“Karthik’s a busy opener... He’s positive and likes to get on with the job... He doesn’t allow himself to get bogged down and that’s one quality I admire," former England captain (and opener) Graham Gooch told The Telegraph.
A wonderful compliment that.
As for Karthik, he said: “I think I batted very well... I’m happy at the way I consolidated, but I’m definitely disappointed at the way I got out... It was at the wrong time...”
Given the way he’s been batting, that second century should come sooner rather than later.
“I’ve opened up my stance and tried to get my left shoulder to face the bowler... That’s the slight adjustment I’ve made (in England)... I’m very happy with the way things have gone... Once you get set on these wickets then you can play your shots... I’ve been doing that...Tomorrow (Friday), the first hour is going to be very crucial...The (second) new ball has been taken and there are two very experienced batsmen in the middle... If they get a start, then any total is gettable... At the moment, there’s no figure in mind...”
Our SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in LONDON
Dinesh Karthik on Thursday became the eighth batsman to be dismissed in the 90s in England. The following is the list:
Sourav Ganguly 99, Nottingham 2002
Kapil Dev 97, The Oval 1982
Rahul Dravid 95, Lord’s 1996
Sanjay Manjrekar 93, Manchester 1990
Sachin Tendulkar 92, Nottingham 2002
Ajit Wadekar 91, Leeds 1967
Sachin Tendulkar 91, Nottingham 2007
Dinesh Karthik 91, The Oval 2007
DRAVID STANDS TALL
Rahul Dravid emerged as the top run-getter for India at the Oval during his knock of 55 on Thursday. Following is the list of Indians with over 200 runs at this venue:
Rahul Dravid — 272 runs in 2 matches @ 136.00 (hst 217)
Ravi Shastri — 253 runs in 2 matches @ 84.33 (hst 187)
Gundappa Viswanath — 241 runs in 3 matches @ 48.20 (hst 75*)
Sunil Gavaskar — 240 runs in 3 matches @ 60.00 (hst 221)
Vijay Merchant — 228 runs in 2 matches @ 76.00 (hst 128)
Kapil Dev — 223 runs in 3 matches @55.75 (hst 110)
SOURAV CLOSER TO KAPIL
Sourav Ganguly hit his 47th six in Tests on Thursday, taking him within 14 of Kapil Dev’s Indian record. Following is the list of top five Indian six-hitters in Tests:
Kapil Dev — 61
Sourav Ganguly — 47
Virender Sehwag — 42
Sachin Tendulkar — 42
Navjyot Sidhu — 38
Note: Figures updated till the end of Thursday’s play in the Oval Test
2ND-BEST DAY I TALLY
The 316/4 Rahul Dravid's team scored on Thursday was the second-best tally by India on the opening day of a Test in England. Following are the top-five Day I scores by India in England:
324/4 — The Oval, 1990
316/4 — The Oval, 2007
287/2 — Nottingham, 1996
272/6 — Leeds, 1952
236/2 — Leeds, 2002