Day Three: Gritty Dravid’s 33rd Ton Helps India Save Follow-On

Posted: July 24, 2011 by thecognitivenomad in Cricket, India in England 2011

Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, CouchExpert

24 July 2011

Some of the most gripping Indian batting performances remind you of a Rube Goldberg device: a deliberately over-prepared unit that makes simple survival seem like siege warfare – more so because of self-inflicted errors.

On a ground where run-scoring, when the conditions suit, can appear to be a child’s play, the script called for the middle order crumble to leave a battling Dravid, as witnessed on many an occasion before, fight using every drop of his blood. The script might also contain a valiant fourth innings heroic from Laxman, if the stars take the same respective positions in the skies as they have on those memorable games in the past.

It could have gotten worse had Strauss and Swann, both excellent slip fielders, held on to their chances during the second session. Stuart Broad, who was busy corroborating the selectors’ decision to play him in the XI, had caused the damage by then.

After getting rid of the openers, he removed the man all eyes were on, and ensured that the 38 year old will continue to carry a highest score of 37 at the home of cricket, at least until the next, and possibly his last, innings at the Lord’s. But he wouldn’t have been too pleased with the chances the slip cordon put down, chances that hardly seemed presumptive of innocence.

Rahul Dravid's innings was the lone bright spark in an otherwise disappointing batting display by India

But what Broad did was keep his lengths constantly full – a ploy that yielded him three crucial wickets. His self-proclaimed role as an enforcer, all these days, seemed uncalled for. With Gambhir being beaten by swing, Mukund playing on and Tendulkar reaching out to a delivery outside off stump to give Swann another catch to his name at second slip, Broad put an end to the debate over his place in the playing XI in style, along with the Great Indian Dream.

Earlier, Tendulkar’s entry, after the dismissal of a promising Mukund – who’d played so well for his 49, had the crowd (and possibly even the English camp) lingering in perpetuity. His counter-attack after the commencement of Session Two could so easily have unravelled those strings of nervousness tied across the moment that was built by the diffusion of millions of hopes focusing around a single thought. The thought wasn’t so much about victory or loss as it was about that 100th ton.

For once, as elusive as it has always been for him across these years, the focus shifted to Dravid, who quietly surpassed Ricky Ponting to become Test Cricket’s second highest run getter of all time, second only to the man who has often overshadowed him during his illustrious, but unglamorous career.  The flick past mid-wicket off Swann’s bowling to reach this milestone will certainly be etched in the memories of those who’ve embraced a larger outlook on the sport.

The Lord’s – what a befitting venue for this unassuming cricketer to cross a very memorable milestone! This isn’t a moment millions might have prayed for, for the majority would have hardly envisioned this statistic.

With very little support received from the rest of the batsmen, Dravid witnessed wickets tumbling at the other end as Broad went on to add another to his scalps to make his tally four after he got rid of Praveen Kumar. Tremlett had removed the Indian skipper and Harbhajan prior to this, thereby landing the Indians in deep waters.

At a stage of his career where he is closer to 39 than 38, Dravid plethora of 33 tons may seem worth a lot more than their weight in gold considering that his record overseas has always been superior to his statistics at home, a trait unheard of among Indian batsmen.

A man who has always stood up for the needs of the team, often involving himself moving out of his comfort zone – right from opening the innings in an Australian tour to keeping wickets at the Lord’s to allow MSD to have a crack at the English batting – the Wall has stood tall and stamped his authority over all these years in proving his worth as a team player, and still boasting the second greatest record in test cricket.

Meanwhile, England will look to capitalize on India’s meagre first innings total, against a toothless Indian attack lacking Zaheer Khan. There’s plenty of cricket to be played and contrary to the thought presumed earlier, this Lord’s test could well have a result up its sleeve.

It is going to be a cracker of a 4th day.


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