x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dravid and Laxman key to Indian hopes of draw

Pair have to bat for much of Monday to save Lord's Test after Prior's century puts England in strong position to go 1-0 up in four-match series.

Matt Prior scored his third Test ton at Lord's, in England's second innings against India on day four of the first Test. Prior has scored three hundreds more than Sachin Tendulkar, the game's leading run-getter.
Matt Prior scored his third Test ton at Lord's, in England's second innings against India on day four of the first Test. Prior has scored three hundreds more than Sachin Tendulkar, the game's leading run-getter.

LONDON // The occasion of the 2,000th Test match, which is taking place at Lord's this week, has given most cricket watchers a reason to muse on the greatest moments of the format's history.

The Kolkata Test of 2001, when VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid guided India to an impossible win after following-on against Australia, should have featured highly on most people's lists. It is neat timing, therefore, that the same two players should be together at the crease this morning, with India in a similarly woeful state and a Test match to save.

Memories of that extraordinary feat will provide a sliver of hope to the away side's supporters, but in truth, Test cricket's No 1 side will be lucky to escape Lord's level with their hosts, after being comprehensively outplayed so far.

MS Dhoni, the India captain, often speaks about just how tough it can be to carry the weight of expectation of 1.2 billion cricket fanatics, but you would not know it to look at him.

The burden is usually lightly, and stylishly, worn. However, he was starting to show signs of fraying as Matt Prior and Stuart Broad lashed the depleted Indian attack.

When Dhoni, who was labelled the "most charismatic cricketer" India have had, by Graeme Swann, the England off-spinner, earlier this week, is reduced to the role of declaration bowler, you know something has gone awry.

It is not just Dhoni's bowling which took a battering during the mid-afternoon slog by England. Cricket's most marketable player has a luminous captaincy CV, but some of the sheen was lost as the wheels came off yesterday.

As he was forced to bowl himself and Suresh Raina, his decision-making became more and more muddled. Clearly, he was helped little by his side's expanding casualty list.

Tendulkar was not even at Lord's for most of yesterday, having been told to rest as he dealt with the effects of a viral infection.

He will not be able to bat until some time around lunch today, or whenever the fifth wicket falls, whichever happens sooner.

Gautam Gambhir, Dhoni's understudy as captain, was taken to hospital after being struck a fearful blow while fielding close in on the leg-side.

An x-ray on his arm will give Team India a better idea of when he might return to the crease. He is likely to be begging Dhoni to keep him away from the close catching positions for some time to come, though.

India have been deprived of their leading bowler, Zaheer Khan, since the first day of his game. Medical opinion started off optimistically about his hamstring strain, suggesting he may be fit to bowl in England's second innings. He has yet to be seen with ball in hand since, however.

To compound his worries, Dhoni could also be due an enforced break now. His side's over rate has been well below the standard in this game, and he could be hit with a one-match ban as a result. And to cap everything, he was also comprehensively outplayed by his opposite number with the gloves. Prior's brilliant counter-attacking ton means he now has three centuries at Lord's - which is three more than Tendulkar, Test cricket's leading run-getter.

pradley@thenational.ae

 


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