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Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian thunder Down Under
- Sourav & Co. go 1-0 up with 4-wicket victory; Steve regrets lack of ‘30-40’ runs

Adelaide:The quintessential pro that he is, Rahul Dravid only eased off when the scoreboard rolled to 229. At that point, come what may, the second Test couldn’t have been lost. The winning runs followed, appropriately from the vice-captain’s super bat.

That last stroke, a boundary, brought the curtain down on an extraordinary game where the losing team scored 550-plus in the first innings and the victorious XI got 20 wickets despite the absence of two frontline bowlers. But, whatever happened, Dravid stayed the cynosure and never got far from the MoM nomination.

“Quite a few emotions surfaced during the closing minutes... Many thoughts crossed my mind... Of course, the physical tiredness was there but, right through the Test, I’d kept telling myself that a couple of hours more and...,” Dravid remarked, while interacting with the Media.

The tiredness was understandable as, collectively, Dravid batted for five minutes short of 14 hours to aggregate (and average) 305 at the Oval. It’s an effort which made captain Sourav Ganguly say: “He bats like God and is a role model for so many sportspersons back home.”

Steve Waugh, the Australian captain, wasn’t short on praise either. “Dravid has an outstanding technique and possesses great concentration,” was his way of appreciation.

Incidentally, while Sourav rated Tuesday’s win as the finest of his career (with the Eden victory at No. 2 and Headingley after that), Dravid preferred to place the Eden show of 33 months ago a notch higher.

Later, talking to The Telegraph, Dravid dedicated his performance to “teammates and the coaching staff.” It’s debatable, though, whether the script would have been drastically different had Adam Gilchrist not muffed up when the vice-captain was on nine and the total 73 for one.

However, with Dravid at one end, the win wasn’t in doubt — not even when Sachin Tendulkar and the captain himself left in pretty quick succession. Then, after tea, the flutter was mild at the ever-reliable V.V.S.Laxman’s departure. Parthiv Patel’s exit, with the scores tied, was academic.

“Self-belief matters... I don’t think teams are in awe of any opposition but, then, we had to do something special to beat Australia... That (special) effort came from Dravid and Laxman, Anil Kumble and Ajit Agarkar,” emphasised Sourav who, at stumps on the first day, had wearily spoken of “a battle” on India’s hands.

He added: “The next Test (Melbourne) is ten days away... That’s going to give us time for returning to reality... That’s going to give us time for getting back to business in the same manner... For now, we should enjoy the moment...”

Yet, Sourav didn’t forget to sound a ‘warning’: “We are the second-best team in the world and, if we win this series, could be considered the best.”

Well, nobody will grudge if the Indians repeatedly freeze every frame of the last three days’ action.

Steve, for whom this farewell series is turning out to be a nightmare, was left regretting the lack of “30-40 runs” on the fourth afternoon. More than that, looking ahead, he is desperate for a formula to “quickly dismiss” Dravid and Laxman.

When they get stuck, the Australians get unhinged.

Team India, by the way, began Day V requiring 193 to force only the fourth victory on Australian soil. Openers Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag remained unseparated till 48, when the former went. Next was Sehwag, who committed hara-kiri.

That brought about a 70-run partnership between Dravid and Sachin. Actually, they should have added many more but, inexplicably, the latter decided not to offer a shot and Stuart MacGill’s appeal was upheld. The captain followed Sachin.

Asked when was he absolutely sure of the win, Sourav replied: “When we got past the 200 mark...”

The Dravid stand-out apart, the Indians were helped by Jason Gillespie’s return to the dressing room after a minor role on this most decisive day. He has a right groin strain and will be “assessed” by the end of the week. It’s unlikely, though, he will be fit for Melbourne.

Meanwhile, the Indians leave for Hobart on Wednesday afternoon. The three-dayer there, against Australia A, will be played from Friday.

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