LONDON // The majority of the 30,000 people who made the vexing trip across London to get to the cricket between England and India yesterday probably did so in anticipation of witnessing one master batsman finally laying to rest the ghost of the absent Lord's century.
They were not disappointed, but it was probably not the one they were thinking of. While Sachin Tendulkar will now have only one more crack at scripting his fairy tale of scoring his 100th international ton at the home of cricket, yesterday was Rahul Dravid's day.
Given all the brouhaha surrounding Tendulkar's pursuit of three-figures, it has been easy to disregard the fact Dravid's name is also missing from the dressing room honours board commemorating past centurions here.
Once he was given a life by being dropped in the slips while on 42, he was not going to miss out.
As he clipped the ball through the leg-side to reach his landmark, cricket's most discerning crowd rose to show their appreciation.
Banners - along with "flags, musical instruments, klaxons, rattles, fireworks and other articles which may constitute an annoyance to spectators" - are banned at Lord's. As such, this Test has been devoid of much of the colour which is usually associated with watching India play.
However, their supporters are nothing if not resourceful, and a group of them turned some sponsor-issue boundary cards into an impromptu message reading "Wall Power" to commemorate Dravid's ton.
It is a wonder that "The Wall" has never done it before, given that he has an eminently passable record at the ground. This is his fourth appearance at Lord's — one less than Tendulkar — and he had not bettered the 95 he made on debut there in 1996, with a 63 in 2002 as well.
Although the spectators were appreciative of his achievement, the collective sense of disappointment when Tendulkar passed up his own chance was palpable.
The Mumbai batsman had been ushered to the wicket with a welcome deserving of a man of his standing in the game. The fact Tendulkar replaced Abhinav Mukund at the wicket was a neat marker of his longevity.
Mukund, who made a promising start before falling for 49, was still two months away from being born when Tendulkar made his Test debut, against Pakistan in November 1989. It has been a long time to wait for a century at Lord's, but the wait will have to go on for at least another day. It was Stuart Broad, who many felt was fortunate to retain his place for this game, who spoiled the party.
The fast bowler was enjoying a fine day, with the wickets of the two openers already, when he induced an edge from Tendulkar, and Graeme Swann sealed the deal with a fine catch at slip.
The England selectors will feel they have been vindicated by their decision to stick with Broad rather than selecting the fit-again Tim Bresnan, after the Nottinghamshire bowler took four wickets.
He could have had six. Dravid finished undefeated, but he was missed at slip off Broad, while VVS Laxman - who misfired again in England - was put down by Andrew Strauss in the same over.
Broad is never shy of complaining about lax fielding off his bowling. Strauss, his captain, escaped without much collateral damage for his fluff, but Broad let loose a volley of abuse when Kevin Pietersen let fly with four-overthrows when trying to run out Tendulkar. Pietersen might have liked to point out that he had a fair bit of credit in the bank at that point, having made a brilliant double-century in England's innings, while Broad made a first-ball duck.
For all Dravid's efforts, India are in a parlous position in this game. England closed with a 193-run lead.
India will need their batting celebrities to fire second time around if they are to reach Trent Bridge for the second Test later this week on a level footing. What price a match-saving century for Tendulkar?