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Rahul Dravid finished the day unbeaten on 177 after the first day's play.
Rahul Dravid finished the day unbeaten on 177 after the first day's play.
Rahul Dravid finished the day unbeaten on 177 after the first day's play.

Dravid enjoys centre stage

The batsman passes 11,000 run mark as his side take charge after a tottering start to the first day of the Test against Sri Lanka at Motera.

Rahul Dravid has spent most of his own distinguished career in the shadow of greatness cast by Sachin Tendulkar but he reminded everyone that India have produced two great batsman of the modern area with a masterful century in Ahmedabad yesterday. Standing at the other end with his side on the ropes at 32 for four, Dravid counter-punched India out of trouble and into the most commanding of positions at the end of day one at 385 for six.

Yuvraj Singh made a fluent 69 and the captain MS Dhoni completed a second Test match century as India showcased the depth of their famed batting line-up to rack up their highest ever first-day score. But the day was all about Dravid. The fans flocked to the ground in Gujarat to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tendulkar's Test debut but they headed for the exit gates saluting the brilliance of the redoubtable right-hander. The player nicknamed "The Wall" will resume on 177 this morning after firmly cementing his place alongside the greats of the game with his 27th Test century.

In the process of posting his 10th score of 150 or more, Dravid moved up to fifth, above Steve Waugh, in the list of leading Test run-getters and passed the landmark of 11,000 runs in the long form of the game. Only Allan Border, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Tendulkar have scored more. Threading the ball through the offside with a series of grass-cutting drives and pulls, Dravid produced a chanceless innings and the only sniff he gave the Sri Lanka bowlers came when an edge off the disappointing Muttiah Mura- litharan fell just short of Mahela Jaywardene at slip when on 94.

He punished the ball with ruthless efficiency and seemed to have benefited from playing four-day cricket with Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy while the rest of his teammates have been relentlessly playing limited overs cricket for the past seven months. Given the concentration, focus and fluency he played with yesterday, you would not be surprised to see Dravid eclipsing his best score of 270 today, providing he does not run out of partners.

Partnership building has been a feature of Dravid's decorated 13-year Test career and his 125-run liaison with Yuvraj and 224-run union with Dhoni means he has now shared in a world-record 77 century partnerships. If the partnership with Yuvraj rebuilt the innings then the stand with Dhoni established a potentially match-winning position for the home side who will finish this three-match series as the No 1 ranked side in the world with a 2-0 victory.

Dhoni's thoughts, however, would have been on saving the match after his side, who appeared to be still in one-day mode, made the worst possible start after winning the toss. The rookie Sri Lanka new-ball pairing of Dammika Prasad and Chanaka Welegedara in particular, caused havoc in the opening half-hour of play to leave India reeling. Welegedara, the left-armer seamer and probable successor to Chaminda Vaas, had only taken four Test wickets before yesterday but added the prize scalps of Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in the space of four overs.

The way he bowled Tendulkar, for just four, with one that swung back and bowled the "Little Master" will be one he will treasure for a long time. It was a delivery Wasim Akram would have been proud of. When Prasad, the bustling right-armer, beat the defence of VVS Laxman, Sri Lanka were in the box seat while India were fearing a repeat of their last Test in Ahmedabad, when they were shot out for 76 by South Africa.

But in tandem with Yuvraj and Dhoni, who was out just before the close, Dravid repaired the earlier damage and is now eyeing another double century. @Email:kaffleck@thenational.ae

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