The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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England pull ahead despite Dravid’s marathon 217

London: Ajay Ratra shouldn’t be surprised at receiving a bouquet from Nasser Hussain. After all, the only way England could have got Rahul Dravid was via a run out. Much to the home team’s joy, Ratra played facilitator at The Oval Sunday.

Dravid, then the non-striker, wasn’t keen on responding to Ratra’s call but the wicketkeeper kept heading for his end. Faced with this peculiar scenario, the vice-captain himself moved towards the striker’s position. It was a futile exercise.

A great innings, then, had an ordinary end. “It’s always disappointing to be run out but, then, such a dismissal can occur in any innings,” is what Dravid himself had to say about that moment of madness.

Dravid, of course, had already posted a career-best 217 (629 minutes, 468 balls, 28x4). In fact, in registering his second double hundred, Dravid became the first in 2002 to cross 1,000 Test runs. He also eclipsed Vijay Manjrekar’s record for the highest in a series against England.

While the late Manjrekar had 586 over five Tests in 1961-62, Dravid (with one innings remaining) has already totalled 602. For the statistically inclined, over six innings, Dravid has batted for eight minutes short of 31 hours and more than half the runs have come off boundaries (340, to be precise).

Day-IV, then, was largely dominated by this master from Bangalore (overnight 131). Moreover, as in the past, there was much to learn for everybody.

Dominic Cork, for one, must have realised it doesn’t pay to keep pitching short. Each time he did so, especially before lunch (403 for five), Dravid pulled with utter contempt. The vice-captain wasn’t impressed with Cork’s verbal missiles either.

Obviously, Cork didn’t quite remember that even Allan Donald couldn’t fluster Dravid.

An excellent situation-player, he didn’t place a foot wrong during his innings of well over ten hours. At the end of it, Dravid was (typically) modesty personified. “It’s been a great summer... The wickets have been good and I’ve cashed in... Actually, I quite like conditions in England...”

Fair enough, but it still requires immense character to get past 600 in a mere six innings — that, too, always under pressure.

Resuming at the overnight 315 for five, the Indian first innings ended some 35 minutes after tea, seven short of England’s effort. A draw remains the most likely result, even accounting for “some magic”, which Dravid expects from the Indian bowlers.

By stumps, England were 121 in front, scoring at almost a run a minute. The wicket is affording much turn and bounce, but Marcus Trescothick (58 not out) and Michael Vaughan (unbeaten on 47) have got their team off to a flyer. Zaheer Khan, in particular, was milked for 37 in five overs.

For England to have been under pressure, India should first have been ahead by a minimum of 100.

Incidentally, the in-sublime-form Vaughan has done a Dravid. Besides getting past 600 for the series, he touched 1,000 runs for the year. Even Trescothick, making a comeback, was in the spotlight. Specifically, he followed up his first innings 57 with another fifty.

To return to the Indian innings, V.V.S.Laxman, the other overnighter, scored 40 — it was a struggle for this dasher — while Ajit Agarkar contributed 31. Laxman, whose footwork has been letting him down, had an excellent first Test (43 not out and 74 at Lord’s), but has contributed little thereafter.

For England, Andrew Caddick returned the best figures: Four for 114.

Intriguingly, captain Hussain seemed least interested in getting wickets and trying to avoid a draw. Unbelievably, really, Caddick and Matthew Hoggard began the day with only two slips each — that, too, when England were still 200 ahead.

A positive approach and a couple of quick wickets could, in the light of England’s fiery start in innings No.2, have made a big difference in the direction this Test is heading. Hussain should have some answering to do at the post-match Media conference.

Agencies add: Earlier, Dravid received a standing ovation from the crowd and was applauded by the England team as he left the arena. He did give a sharp chance when Giles dropped him in the gully on 168, but shook off the near miss to go to lunch on 184.

Dravid brought up his double century, the first of the series after Vaughan was dismissed for 197 at Nottingham and 195 at The Oval and Sachin Tendulkar made 193 at Leeds, with a flick to fine leg for a single off Hoggard.

Agarkar was the first to fall in the afternoon session, bowled when the a perfect off-spinner hit the footmarks and went through a gaping chasm between his bat and pad.

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