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Rain helps India escape with a draw
Harish Kotian in London | July 23, 2007 18:16 IST
Last Updated: July 23, 2007 23:31 IST
Bad light and persistent rain on the fifth and final day helped India narrowly escape with a draw against England [Images] in the first Test at Lord's on Monday.
Chasing an improbable 380 for victory, India were on the brink of defeat after being reduced to 282 for 9 in their second innings. But as soon as the ninth wicket fell, the light started to fade. The umpires offered the batsmen the light, but no sooner did the last pair of Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] and S Sreesanth [Images] start walking back to the pavilion for an early tea break than it started raining, washing out play for the rest of the evening.
Dhoni was unbeaten on 76, including 10 boundaries. His knock ultimately proved crucial in the final analysis.
Dinesh Karthik was the only other batsman to offer resistance, with a battling innings of 60.
Debutant Chris Tremlett took three wickets for 52 runs as the Indian batsmen dished out another disappointing performance in the second innings.
England were bowled out for 298 in their first innings. They then knocked out India for 201 and gained a healthy lead of 97 runs. In the second innings, England scored 282.
The second Test at Trent Bridge begins on July 27.
Morning session: (70 runs, 28 overs, 2 wickets)
Resuming at 137 for 3 in pursuit of 380, India's hopes of at least making a fight of the match were dashed when Sourav Ganguly [Images] fell in the fifth over of the day. The left-hander failed to read the incoming delivery from Ryan Sidebottom and was out leg before for 40. He hit six boundaries in his 65-ball knock, but fell a crucial time.
James Anderson followed it up with the wicket of Dinesh Karthik, in the 48th over. The Indian opener, who looked in control till then, threw his wicket away with a flashy shot outside the off-stump and was caught by Collingwood for 60 as India slipped to 145 for 5.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on 1, nearly surrendered his wicket when he attempted a similar shot that cost him his wicket in the first innings. He tried to guide the ball through the gully region, but, luckily, this time it flew over the slips.
He got another reprieve on 14 when he tried to cut Monty Panesar [Images], but the edge flew between the wicketkeeper and first slip.
However, Dhoni settled down, determined to make a mark at Lord's. He did not hold back whenever a delivery was pitched up, and though he didn't look attractive out in the middle he kept getting the runs. He and V V S Laxman [Images] brought up a 50-run partnership in the 68th over off 116 deliveries as India crossed the 200-run mark in the same over.
Dhoni's aggression seemed to have rubbed off a bit on Laxman too. The two put up spirited resistance after the loss of those two early wickets in the morning.
At lunch on the final day, India were 207 for 5 in 69 overs, still needing another 173 runs to win.
Laxman was unbeaten on 29 from 69 deliveries, with four boundaries, and at the other end Dhoni survived a tense start to be not out on 28 from 67 deliveries.
India produced 70 runs in the session but the bad thing for them was the loss of two wickets. Dhoni and Laxman will hope to carry the momentum after lunch too, but one thing they need to guard against is wickets. One more wicket will expose the tail, which England should run through without much fuss.
The highest ever run chase at Lord's is 344 for 1 by the West Indies [Images], against England in 1984. India may not be able to better that, but can it save the match?
Post-lunch session: (75 runs, 27 overs, 4 wickets)
India added 24 runs after the break before the losing the key wicket of Laxman for 39. The right-hander's defences were breached by a sharp incoming delivery from Chris Tremlett that saw his stumps shattered.
He added 86 runs for the sixth wicket with Dhoni. The two batsmen were beginning to give the English camp some anxious moments, but with Laxman's exit, whatever hopes the Indians may have entertained of forcing a draw ended.
Veteran Anil Kumble could not offer much resistance as he fell leg before wicket to Sidebottom for 3.
Dhoni completed a half-century off 120 deliveries in the 86th over with a push to mid-off as the Indian total also reached 250 for 7.
What a strange coincidence that the two best batting efforts in the second innings came from the wicketkeeping/batting all-rounders in Karthik and Dhoni. The tail was crumbling without a fight from the other end as expected.
Zaheer Khan [Images] played a horrible pull shot off Tremlett and was caught down the leg side off a short delivery for 0.
The weather was overcast and it looked like it would rain at any moment, but Zaheer had something else on his mind. There were chances that a heavy spell of rain could wreck the remaining overs and it was important for him hang in as long as he could.
With light fading, captain Michael Vaughan [Images] and Panesar came on to the attack so that the Indian batsmen could not make bad light an excuse to get off the field.
R P Singh seemed to have learnt nothing from Zaheer's dismissal. He went for a wild swipe against Panesar but failed completely and saw his stumps go crashing.
Zaheer and R P, even though they are bowlers, must learn to use some common sense when it comes to batting. They were not expected to score runs but just hold one end up and support Dhoni, but even that proved a bit too much for them.
Dhoni, meanwhile, started to open out his shoulders as he smashed Vaughan for two boundaries in the 92nd over to reach 70. It is interesting to see whether he can go on to score a century since victory now looks out of reach.
There was more drama to follow as bad light stopped play with India on brink of defeat at 282 for 9 in 96 overs. Tea was immediately taken.
Since play stopped at 1534 local time, the rain was unrelenting, ruling any further play for the day.
After waiting nearly three hours to see if play could resume, the umpires abandoned the match a draw at 1820 local time.
India were lucky to get away with a draw, but now some introspection needs to be done as far as their batting is concerned.
Do they go in with an extra bowler to beef up their bowling attack, which at times in this match looked clueless? Or is there an option of getting in Yuvraj Singh [Images] in place of VVS Laxman, who was unconvincing during his two innings in this match.
Captain Dravid and his deputy, Tendulkar, too need to pull their socks up and ensure that they make some meaningful contributions. The two most experienced batsmen in the Indian batting line-up could contribute just 64 runs between in the two innings. It is unfortunate that a talented batting line-up like India could not do much against the inexperienced English pace attack.