The Oval: Ever heard of David and Goliath? Well, at Lord’s, at Trent Bridge, at Edgbaston and now here at The Oval it was Dravid and Goliath, with Goliath being the England side for all the good reasons.
Though the David and Goliath story ends with David prevailing, here Dravid is back in the hood, but did enough to let India live to fight another day, final day at The Oval to be precise.
Just of the stats, India finished Day 4 at a very precarious situation of 129 for 3 with Sachin Tendulkar looking good in the middle with 35* (51) along with the night-watchman Amit Mishra (8*) after being asked to follow-on by Andrew Strauss.
India are still trailing the English total by 162 runs.
India were bundled out for dot 300 in the first innings with Bresnan and Swann picking up three wickets each ably supported by Broad (2) and Anderson (2).
Rahul Dravid, before getting out for a dubious decision in the second innings carried his bat through in the first with an incredible knock of 146*.
Graeme Swann proved to be a menace in the final session as the offie got both turn and bounce from the withering Kia Oval pitch and troubled the batting line-up.
He succeeded in ending the long impedance of Dravid (13) and later castled Virender Sehwag (33) with a classic off-spinners’ dismissal.
James Anderson provided the breakthrough of VVS Laxman with a peach of a delivery late on Day 4.
The Day belonged to Rahul Dravid entirely as has been the case for most part of Indian innings in the whole series.
He stuck it out in the middle with a dogged determination and utter adherence and what not to compile a gruelling 266-ball unbeaten 146 in the first innings, then again coming out, minutes later to open a second time.
The day also witnessed a bit of excitement when Dravid was given out by the third umpire owing to a review taken by England. The Hot-spot seemed to go cold and failed to spot a nick on Dravid’s bat but the third Umpire, Steve Davies reckoned that there was a touch and adjudged Dravid out.
Later on, Dravid in the post session interview did say that his gut feeling was that he might have got a nick.
Starting the day at 103 for 5 in the first innings, Dhoni could not stay in the middle much as he departed for 17 early on, Anderson providing the hasty breakthrough once again.
But Amit Mishra came out all guns blazing, well at least by his own standards and gave good support for Rahul Dravid in the other end. He scored at a brisk pace to reach 43 before being undone by a magnificent catch at short leg by Ian Bell off the bowling of Tim Bresnan.
After Mishra, RP Singh did swing his bat around and his luck with the bat seemed much better than the ball as he stuck it out in the middle for a while.
India eventually were bundled out for dot 300 in the first innings failing to avoid the follow-on and trailing England by 291 runs.
On the bright side, the famed Indian batting line-up finally reached the 300-run mark in the series for the first time courtesy a gritty innings of character by Rahul Dravid.
Dravid accounted for nearly half of the team’s runs. But the larger picture looked rather grim with India being asked to follow-on.
During the innings, Gautam Gambhir`s stubborn but valiant effort of 10 off 62 deliveries was ended by a well directed Broad bouncer.
Gambhir who came 6 down in the batting order after suffering from a mild concussion looked determined to stay on the crease even though he was looking uncomfortable.
He had troubles in sprinting that hampered the ruining between the wickets.
Right from the onset, Gambhir was treated with heavy dosage of short pitch bowling and the south paw hopped and ducked around a majority part of his innings.
But he eventually fell to a well directed short pitched delivery by Board. In a bid to fend away the ever rising delivery, he only managed to top edge it which was grasped by Pietersen at first slip.
Meanwhile, Rahul Dravid held one end together trying to prolong the inevitable follow –on. Amidst the gloomy atmosphere there is something to cheer about as Dravid surpassed Sunil Gavaskar as the second highest century maker for India.
Rahul Dravid got a standing ovation at The Oval as he came out again to open the second innings for India as Andrew Strauss asked India to follow-on.
Sehwag could have been given a standing ovation for surviving the first over in three attempts as India went into tea with a score of 25/0 after being asked to follow-on by England.
Sehwag started to take the initiate and was on the offensive even as Graeme Swann looked more and more ominous on the fourth day pitch.
But Swann provided the body blow with the wicket of Dravid. Then he came back to beat Sehwag’s offensive approach with the perfect off-spinners’ bowl. He gave enough loop on the cherry to induce Sehwag for an expansive drive and as the ball pitched, it spun through the gap of Sehwag’s bat and pad to knock off the off-stump.
VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar soon found themselves in the middle and it was that brief period in the match were the level of game play was raised. At one time, Swann was on song beating both Sachin and Laxman and at other times, Sachin rocked backed to cut the spinning delivery showing his class with Laxman easing on to some lazy cover drives.
But Laxman departed late on day 4 as James Anderson, the breakthrough man broke through VVS’s defence.
Going into Day 5, India would be looking to end the ordeal with a fighting draw whereas Andrew Strauss would be very keen to put the finishing touches on his and his team’s immaculate Test series.
What remains for India on Day 5 is their character to put up a fight and also the mega sub plot of Sachin’s 100th international 100.
Sachin might get his milestone but a draw seem rather unlikely.