|Player:||G Gambhir, RS Dravid, A Flintoff, SCJ Broad|
|Event:||England in India 2008/09|
DateLine: 19th December 2008
The day’s cricket had little in entertainment value but taught the present generation how to graft and show character when things don’t go in your way. 179 runs were scored in 72 overs, one of the rare sights in today’s game. The run-rate never touched the 3 runs per over mark and the highest it went was the 2.6 mark when post lunch Gambhir and Dravid began to find their feet.
India after being jolted in the second over of the day when they lost Sehwag, resumed their control over the English team. Gambhir and Dravid went about their task very methodically and rebuild the innings brick by brick without being very flamboyant. Their first issue was to take the team to lunch without further damage and then take control from their. Dravid after the early working over from Anderson, Broad and Flintoff slowly found his groove again and he looked like the Dravid of the old. Panesar again disappointed and Swann bowled well but without luck.
Gambhir and Dravid steady the innings
England drew the first blood by removing the dangerous Virender Sehwag for 0 in the second over of the day. Stuart Broad, who took Steve Harmison's place, made the got the break through with his sixth ball of the morning, as Virender Sehwag drove loosely at a full one and feathered an edge through to Matt Prior behind the stumps. Batting wasn't easy, especially when the bowlers hit the perfect length just outside off stump.
Broad kept a full length, moved the ball around, and maintained an excellent line to both Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid, who were forced to dig in. After ten overs the score read 15 for 1, runs came in a trickle, with survival the prime goal. The second boundary came after 11 overs. Gambhir was more settled at the crease, clearly riding on the confidence of his role in the team during a successful year. Dravid began his innings amid a slump coupled with India in early trouble on a tricky surface in overcast conditions. Dravid wasn't convincing at the start, playing and missing and miscuing a weak pull shot between two converging fielders. It wasn't pretty, but slowly and steadily Dravid gained in confidence. Gambhir danced down the track to an under-pressure Monty Panesar twice in his first over before lunch to raise the 50 run mark for India. But by lunch India had gnawed back to something resembling a platform.
The period between the lunch and tea was considered crucial and Dravid who had crawled to 11 of 53 balls began to look confident and also found the boundaries. If the first session was about seeing off England's new-ball threat, the second was dedicated to solidifying a start. With the base set for the rest of the innings in the first session Gambhir and Dravid gathered runs in a safe manner post lunch session. They were not overly aggressive and only put the bad balls away.
Though not always timing the ball perfectly and a bit anxious running between the wickets, Dravid progressed after the break. He began by driving Panesar to the boundary and slowly began to look confident. One shot of his stood out particularly, where he placed the ball through to short cover fielders and beat the diving mid-off for a boundary. That shot told that the man was getting into his groove. Gambhir was more settled at the crease, clearly riding on the confidence of his role in the team during a successful year. Gambhir played Panesar well, never allowing him to settle, and helped himself to 78 by the interval. Dravid remained unbeaten on 50 off 153 balls, which included six boundaries.
Dravid's 54th half-century was a defiant one and when he scored his 50th run he must have felt a huge burden being shifted off his shoulders. True to his nature, there were no outbursts of emotions, just a simple wave of his bat acknowledging his comrades in the dressing room for showing in him confidence and not demoting him down the order.
Gambhir was very lucky when Swann got one to straighten and hit his pad, the appeal was negated by Harper but a sheepish look from Gambhir’s face told that he knew he had escaped. Another chance soon went begging when he slashed hard at a ball outside his off stump and very nearly edged to Collingwood at first slip. Collingwood got his fingertips to the ball but could not latch onto it. After Broad's early success England's attack tapered off. Flintoff's control kept a choke on the scoring, James Anderson didn't make the batsmen play enough, and Panesar again struggled to find his rhythm. Graeme Swann was appeared the most dangerous of the lot.
Gambhir makes it count
Gambhir is having a very good year and did not let that good form his go wasted. He had survived a very tricky first session and then consolidated in the second and now he had to make it count in the third session. He signaled his urgency in the first over of the post-tea session when he sent Swann soaring over the long off boundary for a maximum. He then seemed to be in a hurry, the circumspection that he showed in the first and the second session was replaced with controlled aggression.
Though there was an increase in tempo, the run rate never touched the 3 runs per over mark, but rather it were a throw back to the old days where the run rate never went mind numbing proportions. When Gambhir reached the nineties, three consecutive off-side doubles, each more aggressive than the last, took Gambhir to 99 and he duly raised a century off 214 balls with a trademark clip off the pads. It was the slowest of his four centuries and he had to be watchful.
Dravid meanwhile began to grow from strength to strength and began to display his trademark defensive shots. With 18 overs to go the umpires offered light to the batsmen which they gladly accepted.
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