England remove Dhoni but The Wall still unbroken
Lunch: Fourth Test, day four, The Oval
Match score: India 218-6 (Dravid 109*, Mishra 38*) trail England 591-6 dec (Bell 235, Pietersen 175; Sreesanth 3-123) by 373 runs Full scorecard
Session score: India 115-1 India win
Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen have made more runs in this series than Rahul Dravid but some of theirs have been easy. Every single one of Dravid’s 411 runs have been hard-earned.
The next most productive Indian batsmen in the series is MS Dhoni with 217. He has scored more than a quarter of all runs off the bat made by India in the series and at lunch had made precisely 50% of India’s 218 runs in this innings.
His 35th Test hundred, his third of the series, took him past Brian Lara and Sunil Gavaskar in the all-time list and by the way he left his gloves, helmet and armguard on the outfield as he broke for lunch suggested he’s not done yet.
He was given a proper ovation by the Oval crowd when he reached his hundred around 45 minutes before lunch. It was late enough for every spectator to have arrived in the sold-out ground but early enough for the booze not to have distracted the cricket-watching.
And this was an innings not only of great stature and skill, it was also terrific to watch. He has hit 15 boundaries. Yes, he has placed a high price on his wicket but he hasn’t been blocking.
He is a thoroughly orthodox, old-fashioned batsman yet he defies convention by playing the offspinner Graeme Swann almost exclusively through the off side, against the spin.
His first movement is forward but he is so well-balanced and his footwork that he will in most cases rock back and force the ball into the covers. Uneven is his only enemy.
I was talking recently to David Fulton, the former Kent batsman. He had batted with Dravid in a famous County Championship match at Portsmouth 11 years ago against Hampshire. It was Dravid v Shane Warne. Everyone else was playing a different game.
Fulton recalled that while he and others would mostly try to kick Warne away from outside leg stump, Dravid would be right on top of every ball, smothering the spin at birth and punch the ball through midwicket, against the spin. It was the sort of batting that for most other players would be professionally suicidal.
Dravid scored 137 out of 252 in the first innings and 73 not out from 205 for 4 in a successful second-innings run-chase. Warne, who didn’t get him out, bowled 68.4 overs in the match and took 4 for 150.
Dravid’s throwback quality extends beyond his batting. He has become an avid reader and collector of books. “As an international cricketer you spend a lot of your time waiting. At airport lounges, in hotel rooms by yourself, on buses on the way to grounds,” he told Sports Illustrated India recently. “Some people like iPods, iPads, PlayStations … there are so many ways to take your mind away from cricket or kill the boredom. But I always preferred to have a book on hand.”
His partnership with Amit Mishra stands at 81 in 20 overs. It does not change the course of the match but it changed the mood of the morning. Mishra, who showed he liked a slog in the pre-Edgbaston tour match at Northampton where he made 61, hit Swann for six off the last ball before lunch.
Gautam Gambhir, who is suffering from concussion after hitting his head on the ground dropping a catch on Friday, is due in next.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John