Dravid’s classy hundred the lone hand for struggling India
Close: First Test, day three, Lord’s
Match score: England 5-0 (Strauss 3*, Cook 0*) and 474-8 dec (Pietersen 202*, Prior 71, Trott 70; Kumar 5-106) lead India 286 (Dravid 103*; Broad 4-37) by 193 runs Full scorecard
Session score: England 5-0, India 93-5 England win
After the electricity of the Sachin circus came the flickering gas lamp of a Rahul Dravid hundred. The game took a bit of a lie down after tea following two highly-charged sessions but once the new ball was taken it crackled back into life.
Dravid marked his century with the same celebratory upper-cut air-punch as Kevin Pietersen had yesterday. They were team-mates once at Bangalore Royal Challangers in the IPL but you wouldn’t necessarily imagine they had much in common other than a pursuit of excellence.
Dravid’s hundred was 14 balls quicker than KP’s, which says more about Pietersen’s watchfulness than Dravid’s, which we have become so used to. This was his highest score at Lord’s, beating his 95 on debut in 1996. He also passed 1,000 Test runs in England where he averages a mere 70.
Unlike Zaheer Khan, Dravid must have elastic hamstrings because he stretches so far when he drives. It’s inevitable in some ways because his starting position is resolutely leg stump so he has a long way to come if he wants to get an away-swinger to the cover boundary.
He barely has a trigger movement such is his outward and inner stillness. Many batsmen look vulnerable when they reach for the ball but not Dravid. He is a machine in perfect working order.
Back home in Bangalore he’s in the gym every day at 6am at the National Cricket Academy and it shows. Whereas one or two of his team-mates look a bit porky, he looks almost too lean.
His cover-driving off the seamers was perfect but the way he played Graeme Swann was the highlight. He would ready himself to come forward (almost the famed Duncan Fletcher forward-press) but then rock on to the back foot and slice the ball through the covers.
He had his luck, dropped on 42 by Swann diving to his right at second slip, but he deserved it. He is a great man of cricket, a statesman of the world game whose intelligence and understated elegance are virtues to which all players should aspire.
Stuart Broad tried him with a couple of his ‘enforcer’ balls once he had a hundred and he swayed nonchalantly out of the way.
Broad justified his selection today. Gone was the bumper war, the angst and the petulance (except when a Kevin Pietersen throw caused overthrows) and in their place was controlled, purposeful aggression. He would have had a five-for before tea but for Swann’s and Andrew Strauss’s ineptitude in the slip cordon. Strauss’s miss was a sitter, reminiscent of one of the two he dropped at Uxbridge recently for Middlesex.
It is the sign of a good side that when one bowler is not at his best, and both Jimmy Anderson and Chris Tremlett were slightly off colour at various points, another seizes the opportunity.
Once Mahendra Singh Dhoni had played himself in against the old ball an explosion seemed imminent but it didn’t come from the captain it came from India’s new folk hero Praveen Kumar.
In taking his five-for yesterday, he was baited by the crowd in front of the Edrich Stand and bantered with KP, with whom he played at Bangalore. And when Harbhajan Singh, who has form for feisty hitting, went for a duck, Kumar took it upon himself to be the have-a-go hero, driving without due care and attention. Broad got him in the end trying to hook one of those forbidden bouncers.
That India saved the follow on merely took temptation out of England’s way. They would not have enforced it anyway. England will want to bat India comfortably out of the game tomorrow but they won’t be unhappy if the ball continues to swing and the pitch shows some untypical signs of wear.
Shot of the day: So many to choose from but for its statement of intent, Tendulkar’s first four, the back-foot punch off Tremlett that fizzed to the cover boundary.
Ball of the day: Broad’s inswinger to bowl Gautam Gambhir, a sign that Broad and England were in business.
Moment of the day: The crescendo of applause and gradual ovation that accompanied Tendulkar to the crease: a special sporting moment, matched briefly by his batting.
Celebs of the day: Eric Clapton schmoozing with Beefy; John Major, Jeffrey Archer and Michael Parkinson in the MCC box; noted spinner Alastair Campbell in the TMS box.
Commentary of the day (1): Nasser Hussain on Tendulkar: “What’s the point of sledging him? You can’t put him under any more pressure than he already is: a billion Indians want him to score 60-odd more runs to make their day, their year, their life.”
Commentary of the day (2): David Gower while play was delayed before the new ball was taken: “This is world-class meandering, Olympic-class meandering.”
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John