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Dravid, Laxman keep Indian hopes alive

Last updated on: July 25, 2011 09:04 IST

Bikash Mohapatra reports from Lord's on the fourth day's play in the first Test.

Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman lived to fight another day for India, in the second innings of the opening Test against England, at Lord's on Sunday.

- Scorecard

The veteran pair survived a barrage of hostile deliveries, and hit some exquisite boundaries, to ensure Indian hopes of a draw (a win being out of question at this juncture) remained intact.

Dravid, who scored a dogged 103 not out to help India avoid the follow-on in the first innings, was unbeaten on 34, with Laxman providing the required support, on 32. The duo were involved in a 61-run stand for the second wicket.

At stumps on day four, the visitors had scored 80 for 1, needing a further 378 to win the Test.

With Sachin Tendulkar down with a viral infection, and Gautam Gambhir injured while fielding, India have a tough task ahead of them on the final day.

Even Zaheer Khan, who didn't bowl at all in the second innings, has not fully recovered from his hamstring injury.

Earlier, England declared their second innings at 269 for six, to take their overall lead to 457.

Matt Prior was the architect-in-chief for the home team with a magnificent 103 not out. The 29-year-old's 120-ball knock was inclusive of five hits to the fence and one six. It was the England stumper's sixth Test hundred, albeit his first against India.

Giving Prior the required support in his endeavour was Stuart Broad. The 25-year-old, who finished the leading wicket-taker (with four wickets) in India's first innings, also made a significant contribution with the bat, scoring an attacking 74 not out.

Broad's seventh Test half century took 90 balls to come and included nine boundaries.

The duo's unbroken seventh wicket stand yielded England 162 runs -- their highest seventh wicket stand ever against India. More importantly, it helped them recover significantly from a precarious 107 for six.

For India, Ishant Sharma was India's bowling hero in the second, with figures of four for 59 (off 22 overs).

Morning session (67 runs, 26 overs, five wickets):

Resuming at five without loss, England began on an attacking note before India regained the initiative.

Matt PriorAfter being smashed for three boundaries by Strauss, Praveen Kumar hit back by having Alastair Cook (1) caught behind by MS Dhoni.

It was the first ball of the day that Cook had faced from Kumar, and only the second ball of the innings. It was a double failure for the England opener in the match.

Harbhajan, wicketless in the first innings, provided India the second breakthrough, in the 23rd over (his third), when he trapped Strauss (32) plumb in front.

England's captain was again guilty of wasting a good start.

And, in the 24th over, Ishant, sans a wicket in the first essay, struck twice to cripple England.

A snorter from Ishant, first up, kissed Kevin Pietersen's (1) glove and Dhoni made no mistake behind the stumps.

Five balls later, Ishant had Ian Bell caught behind as well before the latter could bother the scorers. The twin strikes in the Ishant over reduced the home team to 55 for four.

The lanky bowler struck again a few overs later, rattling Jonathan Trott's (22) stumps. A well-settled Trott paid the price of playing away from the body. 

For the record, Ishant took three wickets in the space of 16 balls, conceding just a run during that productive period.

At lunch, the home team had scored 72 for five (after 31 overs) for an overall lead of 260.

Post-lunch session (102 runs, 28 overs, one wicket):

Suresh Raina opened the bowling in the second session and was surprisingly replaced after an over. Dhoni's decision didn't quite ring a bell in this case.

Not having a firing Ishant bowl was surprising, to say the least. In the first 10 overs after lunch, Eoin Morgan (19) and Prior added 32 runs to the England total without getting separated.

Dhoni only handed the ball to Ishant in the 11th over after lunch (the 42nd overall).

And the bowler responded in his second over, having Morgan caught by Gambhir at midwicket. Morgan's dismissal ended a 45-run stand for the sixth wicket that had revived English hopes.

A sweetly-timed boundary through covers off Ishant by Prior (his first) helped take the England lead past the 300-run mark.

With Broad providing a perfect foil, the seventh wicket stand frustrated the Indians. When Broad hit Kumar past mid-on for his third boundary, it brought up the 50-run partnership for the seventh wicket.

It was the first 50-plus partnership in England's second innings. A boundary by Broad (his fourth) over extra cover off Kumar helped England extend their overall lead to beyond 350.

Even as Raina came back into the attack, in the 57th over -- replacing Harbhajan (18-1-50-1), Prior took a single to reach a well-deserved half-century.

The England stumper secured his second fifty of the game, and his effort, along with Broad's, ensured England made a strong comeback in the second session and reclaimed the advantage.

Post-tea session:

England innings (95 runs, 12 overs, no wicket):

Broad and Prior continued to frustrate the Indians in the final session as well. A boundary to fine-leg by Broad (off Ishant) helped England get past the 200-run mark in the second innings.

Broad soon reached his seventh Test fifty with a single off Harbhajan. It was a hugely important innings in the context of the game.

Four balls later another single from his blade brought up the 100-run partnership for the seventh wicket. And another single in the next over (66th) by Ishant helped take England's overall lead past the 400-run mark.

Both the batsmen stepped up gears thereafter, having got the message from the dressing room.

A total of 56 runs were scored in the five overs that followed. The fact that Dhoni bowled himself (2-0-16-0) and Suresh Raina (6-1-43-0) during the period did not help India's cause either.

In the process, Prior reached his personal landmark with a boundary off Raina. The English declaration came the very next moment after Prior punched his fist in the air.

The home side declared their second innings at 269 for six.

Indian innings (80 runs, 27 overs, one wicket):

Chasing an improbable 458 to win, India palpably began on a cautious note.

With Gambhir having gone for a scan, after being hit by a Prior shot, Dravid opened the batting with Abhinav Mukund (12). The duo put on 19 runs in eight overs before a change of bowling got the home team the breakthrough they needed.

Broad, coming in to bowl in place of Anderson, struck with his third ball, rattling Mukund's stumps. It was the second time in the match that the bowler had cleaned up the young Tamil Nadu batsman.

Laxman came in at number three, and along with Dravid ensured there was no further damage during the day.

The danger is not over, though. It will loom in front of the Indian batsmen when they come out to bat on the final day. The onus is on them to take up the challenge and save the Test.