| Rahul Dravid hits a four as Alec Stewart looks on during the third day of the fourth Test at The Oval Saturday. (Reuters)
London, Sept.7: As with everything else, Rahul Dravid is proud he is his own fiercest critic. In this series, though, he’s just not getting the chance to be harsh on himself. The harshness has all been reserved for the England bowlers.
Clearly, they have been made to pay rather heavily.
At The Oval today, Dravid became the fifth Indian (after Vijay Hazare, Polly Umrigar, Sunil Gavaskar and Vinod Kambli) to author hundreds in three successive Test innings. And, with the vice-captain in such awesome form, India were on their way to a more than competitive response to England’s first innings.
At stumps on the third day (called 6.4 overs early owing to insufficient light), India were exactly 200 short, with Dravid on 131 — his 12th hundred — and V.V.S.Laxman on 14. Already past 500 for the series, Dravid is looking good for many more. His handsome sequence reads: 46, 63; 115 (Trent Bridge); 148 (Headingley) plus the unbeaten innings here.
Actually, Dravid is a mere eight shy of touching 1,000 Test runs in 2002. Incidentally, with three Tests against the West Indies coming up in a few weeks, Dravid will have the chance to finish the year on an extraordinary high. Every run has been richly deserved.
To talk of this series-deciding Test, a stalemate is the most likely result. More so, as the elements may play havoc tomorrow. In fact, while poor light ended play prematurely, the start was delayed (by 15 minutes) on account of early morning rain.
Resuming on the overnight 66 for one, India lost Sanjay Bangar pretty early but two sizeable partnerships ensured there wouldn’t be pressure in trying to avert the follow-on. Bangar could add only four to his 17, yet came in for praise from no less than Mike Brearley himself.
Speaking to coach John Wright, during lunch, one of Brearley’s observations was: “Bangar’s has been an excellent selection...”
To return to the Indian innings, Sachin Tendulkar, who was welcomed with an ovation reserved for on-field centurions, and Dravid added 91 for the third-wicket and, then, captain Sourav Ganguly and Dravid got going to collect 105 for the fourth.
As it turned out, both Sachin and Sourav fell in the fifties. While Sachin was plumb leg-before to Andrew Caddick for 54 (113 minutes, 89 deliveries, 10x4), Sourav fell to an old weakness — the short ball. This time, the exploiting was done by Dominic Cork. The captain scored 51 (117 minutes, 84 deliveries, 8x4).
Sourav’s catch was the 200th for Alec Stewart as wicketkeeper.
Agencies add: Agencies add: The visitors could have been in a better position but Sourav, who had just brought up his 20th Test halfcentury with a deft dab past slip for three off leftarm spinner Ashley Giles, was out playing a poor shot to Cork.
Cork seemed to be wasting his energy bowling short to both Sourav and Dravid with neither player prepared to hook.
Sourav, however, after being pegged down by an impressive spell from Giles who was extracting turn from the pitch and the bowlers’ footmarks, finally succumbed and only succeeded in gloving the ball behind to wicketkeeper Alec Stewart.
The Indian skipper provided the only other excitement during the first hour of the session when, in the first over after tea, he shaped to pull a short ball from Cork.
As shortleg John Crawley flinched in anticipation, the ball popped off Sourav’s bat and fell inches short of the fielder.