Dravid offers lone resistance as England move closer to 4-0 clean sweep
Close: Fourth Test, day three, The Oval
Match score: India 103-5 (Dravid 57*, Dhoni 5*; Swann 3-27) trail England 591-6 dec (Bell 235, Pietersen 175; Sreesanth 3-123) by 488 runs Full scorecard
Session score: India 103-5 England win
They applauded him all the way out and they applauded him all the way back. If decibels and clapped hands were runs, Sachin Tendulkar would be the leading scorer in the series by a distance.
But in terms of substantial, selfless contributions to the team, Rahul Dravid has been in a different echelon to his more celebrated colleague.
In the field Tendulkar grazes on the boundary given half a chance while Dravid is in the firing line at slip. Dravid does not like opening the batting but has filled in now four times for Gautam Gambhir whose bang on the head while fielding yesterday prevented him appearing after England’s tea-time declaration. Tendulkar does not shift from his No.4 slot.
Tendulkar’s neurosis about distraction in his sight-line while batting, which has been evident all series, reached a peak this afternoon when he complained the glinting of a metal badge on a blazer being worn by a gentleman sitting under the sightscreen at the pavilion end.
This apparently is why he doesn’t score runs at Lord’s because he doesn’t like the backdrop. Nasser Hussain has observed that when batting in India, where his entrance is always greeted with such mania, Tendulkar uses the sightscreen issue to buy time and let the crowd calm down.
There is professionalism, then there is unhealthy obsession or, dare one suggest, getting your excuses in early. He never looked comfortable. He was hit on the head and on the back. He gave Tim Bresnan a difficult left-handed chance off his own bowling.
That he was out to Graeme Swann, rather than one of the quicks, was surprising but the wicket unlocked both the Indian middle order and Swann’s spirit that has been largely dormant in this series.
Two more wickets fell to the spinner in successive overs. One was the pointless nightwatchman Ishant Sharma, then other Suresh Raina, whose 29-ball struggle equalled the longest duck in Indian Test history.
At the other end from the unraveling, Dravid, who has scored 154 more runs in this series than his next most prolific team-mate, was playing a different game, serenity personified. Footwork, balance, timing and not least of all, stomach for the fight. He had it all.
On Twitter, Paul Nixon, the retiring (but never shy) Leicestershire wicketkeeper, said: “Dravid is such a tough bloke he has titanium running through his veins shows nothing in his face but amazing passion inside.”
It was clear that there was turn in this dry, crusty pitch. It was just a case of whether Swann would make use of it. So far so good, for England. For India, the end, it seems, can’t come soon enough and it might come a good deal quicker than anyone dared expect.
Shot of the day: Virender Sehwag’s third ball off Jimmy Anderson that fizzed to the cover-point boundary, a glimpse of the talent that has lasted only eight balls in this series.
Ball of the day: Not the best but the most unusual. Stuart Broad’s bouncer that swerved after pitching so much that it went straight into the hands of Andrew Strauss at first slip. Looked like it stung a bit.
Commentary of the day: Jonathan Agnew on TMS of VVS Laxman’s dismissal: “It was just there in Geoffrey’s corridor.”
Stat of the day: It’s the first time since the 1938 Ashes that England have had three double-centuries in the same series.
Contrast of the day: When the sun came out after two hours of rain and the umpires inspected the outfield, England emerged for warm-ups, fielding drills and bowling practice. The first time any Indians appeared was when the opening batsmen came down the steps to start the innings.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John