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Rediff.com  » Sports » Dravid guides India to a draw

Dravid guides India to a draw

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Last updated on: June 27, 2006 03:48 IST

Scorecard

Captain Rahul Dravid was unbeaten on 68 as the third Test between India and the West Indies ended in a draw in St Kitts, on Monday.

Chasing an improbable target of 392 to win, India were 298 for four in their second innings when stumps were drawn on the fifth and final day.

The first two Tests in the four-match series were also drawn.

Sehwag give India a fine start to the chase, scoring 65 from 75 balls, inclusive of eight boundaries. He was involved in a 109-run stand for the opening wicket with Wasim Jaffer, who made 54.

VVS Laxman followed up his first innings century with another classy knock of 63, adding 100 runs for the third wicket with Dravid.

Earlier, the home side declared their second innings on 172 for six after eight overs of play in the morning, with Daren Ganga unbeaten on 66.

Anil Kumble finished with 3 for 66 in 12 overs.

Morning session

The start of the Indian second innings, chasing a target of 392 in a maximum of 88 overs, was a bit like a split-screen educational cricket video: on the left of your screen, folks, the perfect demonstration of how not to play the short lifting delivery and on your right, the perfect example of how to.

Pedro Collins was the designated hit man; the left arm seamer, bowling over the wicket, peppered Virender Sehwag with a series of short pitched deliveries and the opener did his reputation no favors with some ugly ducking, weaving and fending.

As early as the third over of the innings, there was a shocking one handed fend to a delivery that wasn't even bouncing above waist high; clearly, the batsman was playing the devils in his head even more than the ones presented by the pitch and the bowler. The very next ball was top edged - and fortuitously, avoided the deep fine leg fielder placed wide for the miscued hook and found the fence behind the keeper.

Jerome Taylor opted for a more conventional attack, testing the batsman with early swing and seam. In the fourth over, the bowler got it all lined up, with a delivery that angled in to middle, then seamed back out to square Sehwag up and find his thick outer edge. The ball flew to first slip, and Chris Gayle flubbed the chance after an extended demonstration of juggling. At the time, Sehwag was 5/8, and India 10 without loss.

The let off was crucial; just how much, was underlined by the following overs. The trouble with that kind of persistent short-pitched bowling is it takes a tremendous amount out of you - Fidel Edwards found that out in the first Test, when in the middle of a similar shotgun burst he pulled up with a dodgy hamstring he still hasn't recovered from.

Here it was the turn of his brother in law, Pedro Collins, to find out just how hard it is to keep it up. Tiredness came early, the pace fell away, and Sehwag quickly settled into a groove.

At the other end, it was all clean lines and classical footwork. Wasim Jaffer has grown in assurance during this tour, and his play here was the most authoritative yet. To the short stuff, he moved nicely into line, either getting behind the ball, or slipping it past him on the leg side - and when the height was just right, as it was on a couple of occasions, easing into cleanly hit pulls that found the fence.

Simultaneously, he tightened his off side play, moving his front foot a long way across to cover the angles before putting bat to ball; clearly his dismissal in the first innings, not getting far enough across on the drive, had registered. Again, Jaffar was very fluid in his gathering of singles, very alert to where they were available and quick to work the ball around.

With the opening bowlers tiring, Lara settled back into semi-defensive mode, and spin came on early with Marlon Samuels. The TV commentators had earlier flashed a clip from before the start of play, where Lara was shown with Sarwan, carefully examining the pitch and carrying on an extended conversation that indicated the part-time spinner plays a big role in Lara's strategies for the day.

Though Samuels did get some turn, and one ball snuck through ankle height to get the toe of Jaffer's bat and beat the keeper en route to the fence, it was a mixed bag, with Sehwag easing him off his pads, and laying back to cut when width afforded. Four overs produced 16 runs, and Colleymore had to be brought back to exercise some control.

At the other end, Bravo came on to give the lead seamers rest. And Sehwag flourished - a scorching cover drive, then an even better straight drive, took the opener to his 50 off 60 deliveries (India 82/0, in the 20th over).

Each passing over began to see the West Indies slip further into defense; the field spread, the bowlers quit focusing on the stumps and began bowling further and further away from off hoping to get the batsmen chasing.

In the 24th over, Bravo attempted the sucker punch. A short extra cover and mid off standing up were deployed; Bravo kept bowling side of off then put the slower one in the driving slot and Sehwag bit, launching hard at that ball and banging it off the middle of the bat. Sarwan, in the short mid off position, saw the rocket coming at him, tried to clutch, and failed to hold on - later, the clock showed the ball had gotten from bat to fielder in just under half a second. (Sehwag 56/68 at the time of the let off, and India 94/0).

The 100 came up in the 25th over and despite the alarms, and a track where the odd ball kept a trifle slow, the Indian openers were keeping a fair clip going and the required rate well in sight. Again, the stats showed the pacing was just right: Against the new ball, the two were more circumspect as they sought to dig in, the first 50 of the innings took 92 balls to score but as the ball got older and the batsmen more confident, the second 50 came up off just 55 balls. Jaffar celebrated the landmark with an on drive off Colleymore that was straight out of the Dravid stylebook.

Another interesting aspect - both batsmen were extra careful to get bat in front of pad; throughout the session, there wasn't a single strike on the pad, let alone an LBW appeal.

At stumps, India went in on 109/0 off 26 overs at 4.19. 61 overs remain for the West Indies, 281 runs for India.

Earlier, the West Indies not out batsmen had come out intent, predictably, on throwing their bats around. As happens at such times, the runs cascaded (59 of them, in 8 overs) and wickets fell.

In the first over of the morning, Kumble tossed one up outside leg; Dwayne Bravo tried to run around it and play inside out, got cramped for room and ended up hitting the ball straight to Sreesanth at long on (9/18; 120/5).

In the 30th over, the sixth of the morning, Harbhajan tossed one up outside off, and straightened it through on the arm; Marlon Samuels came dancing down, was beaten for flight and absence of turn, and stumped by a distance (20/18; 152/6).

Shortly after, Lara pulled the plug, declaring 172/6 in 32 overs. He had used up eight overs this morning, and the two deducted for changeover between innings meant he had 88 overs in hand, at the minimum, to try and bowl India out.

Post-Lunch session

Before start of play, Brian Lara was telling the television commentators that to his mind, the key to the game was getting Virender Sehwag early; that, he said, would help the Windies transfer the pressure onto the others, and look for cracks. Further, that he felt that once Sehwag was gone, India would not look to win - which in turn meant the West Indies would be able to attack a lot more.

He almost had his wish in the first session, but Chris Gayle dropped a regulation catch. The second session though proved luckier - with the first ball after lunch, Corey Colleymore removed the player the West Indies had identified as the main threat.

The ball was on good length, angling in from the bowler wide of the crease, hitting the line of off and straightening on middle. Sehwag, who had in the first session taken some care to keep his pad away from the line of the ball, found himself misreading the line and pushing down the wrong line to get nailed on the front pad on top of the crease. Rudi Koertzen didn't need to think before giving that one (109/1; 65/75).

True to his morning words, Brian Lara immediately went into attack mode, and the results were very interesting, especially in terms of field placing. For VVS Laxman, Lara brought himself in very close at second slip - standing almost as a withdrawn silly point, well ahead of Gayle at first slip.

The Windies captain was clearly banking on Laxman, early in his innings, tending to reach for deliveries, and ensuring that any edge, on a pitch keeping low, would carry. He also put in a short mid off, shortish square leg, a short midwicket and a short cover point - all fielders in the batsman's face, and all helping add to the pressure with a stream of comments.

It took the number three a good 11 deliveries before a nudge behind square off his pads got him off the mark.

Against Jaffar, his tactics were even more interesting. Given the batsman is pure silk off his pads, the bowlers kept everything on off or outside. Lara put in two slips and a gully - and a point, cover point, cover and mid off, all up close (if this was a one day game, they would be standing a good 10, 12 yards inside the 30-yard mark.

The line of the bowling, and this field, meant Jaffer, already denied runs on the leg, couldn't free his arms on the off without a good element of risk involved. The field, incidentally, underlined the value of Sehwag's unorthodoxy - the opener would have looked to blast his way through the cordon; his more orthodox peers contented themselves with playing to the field.

The run rate began slipping, and the pressure built. Jaffar, who after lunch had progressed to his second well-compiled 50 of the match, tried to break through by staying back and gliding the ball through the gap between second slip and gully, the only real opening he could see - but the attempt ended in his sliding the ball off the face of his bat for Chris Gayle, at first slip, to get down very low and hold well (143/2; Jaffar 54/118; run rate 3.77; 249 needed in 50.1.

Laxman started slow, but began finding his range and timing, stroking the ball around nicely while getting to his 50 (78 balls, 8 fours). Dravid was more circumspect against an attack and field setting that denied him runs in his favored areas on the on side.

At tea, India had gone to 200/2, having taken 91 runs for two wickets off 29 overs in the session. Ahead of them, 192 runs, 8 wickets in hand, 32 overs to go.

Post-Tea session

The final session, predictably, was all about strategy and riposte. By the time the players came back on the field, India had turned the game around - any chance for a West Indies win was pretty much history; odds were on a draw, with an outside chance of an Indian win, and that had to dictate Brian Lara's options. He in fact only had the one - to defend his total.

Lara opted to pair part-time spinners Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels at the start of the session. Against that, the Indians used Dravid to work the ball around and Laxman to try and launch the ball; the batsman obliged, pulling Gayle, then dragging him from wide of off over the long on fence.

The shots produced a change in strategy, with Lara packing the leg side and getting his bowlers to fire the ball on leg stump line; it was Dravid's turn to counter, first with a very fine flick beating short fine leg, then with a delicate paddle. Meanwhile, the attempt to bowl quick on leg produced four byes as Gayle beat the keeper on one occasion.

Eight overs of spin produced 43 runs, without either batsman taking too much of an obvious risk. The main problem for Lara was with Samuels - the spinner, so effective in the one day series that preceded the Tests, was reduced to trundling here, and one reason at least was patently obvious.

In the one day series, the bowler had been effective for inordinate turn, and a very quick faster ball; however, his bowling had generated some buzz about his action. Needing to stay within the tramlines here, stylistically, caused Samuels to lose that venom - and the batsmen took to him with ease.

That prompted a change in strategy - Collins and Colleymore were brought on; the field placement indicated that the strategy would be to bowl as wide outside off as possible, to a packed off field.

With his first ball, in the 9th over after tea, Collins struck. He bowled from very wide of the crease, landing in mid pitch and letting the angle swing the ball very wide of the batsman. Laxman, spotting the gap at third man, went chasing, and off the toe of the bat, got the ball to Lara at second slip, who held after a couple of preliminary juggles (243/3; 63/104).

Laxman had kept the board ticking over after the departure of Sehwag and Jaffar; it seemed time for the Indians to floor the pedal. At the start of the session, Yuvraj Singh was padded up and due to come in; somewhere in the 7th over, Suresh Raina was called out for drinks by Dravid; immediately after, Dhoni vanished into the dressing room and came out in full kit.

The first ball he faced was again on the slant across him. Dhoni plonked a foot forward, and swinging through the line, smashed the ball back over the bowler's head and over the straight fence for six.

Collins and Colleymore settled into basic strategy - pack the off field, and bowl as wide of the stumps as possible. Against Dhoni, they also took care to keep the ball as short as they could, to foil a batsman who likes to drive down the straight field.

Colleymore's spell during this phase is particularly praiseworthy - he bowled tight lines, reducing the striking zones for batsmen and ensuring that his bowling was spot on for the widespread field set for him. With Collins also getting some success with his angle across the batsman, the five overs following the Laxman dismissal and the Dhoni six produced just 5 runs, despite Dhoni swinging away like a prizefighter on speed - really remarkable stuff, when you consider how little the margin for error was on those lines and how much sustained accuracy you needed to make it work.

Dhoni managed briefly to break free again in the 70th over, chasing Collins down on the angle and launching him high over extra cover; the same over produced a checked single that took Dravid to his anchoring 50 (96 balls).

But sequential shots to deliveries wide of off are high risk - chasing that far with fielders set deep is zero percentage. Dhoni had to try, though: when Taylor replaced Collins, the batsman's first attempt, reaching far across, only got the toe of the bat to ball to find point. To the next ball, he went down on his knee and smashed at one wide of off, only to see Chris Gayle at mid off take another of those blinders he pulls off in that position - for this, he had to dive across and to his unnatural right side, and hold as the ball was screaming past him (273/4; 20/32).

Following Dhoni's departure, the Indians appeared to have bailed out of the chase. Samuels came back on, and despite having gone for 55 in his first 14, saw Dravid play out a defensive maiden just ahead of drinks and the start of the mandatory 15 overs.

119 to get in 16 overs following Dhoni's departure wasn't by any means easy - even the first West Indies innings hadn't managed to maintain a run rate exceeding 3.4 for the duration of an innings. However, with overs running out and wickets still in hand, it seemed way too early for India to pull out; the fact that it did so, again, seems to indicate that there is not much confidence, within the dressing room, of the current form of Yuvraj and Kaif.

In any case, the game meandered towards the draw I thought was on the cards by the end of the first session of day two. Gayle went around the wicket and bowled about a foot outside off and Yuvraj shouldered arms as though on the first morning of a Test.

The problem was not with the bail out per se -- but with the defensive manner of it. Despite all of Lara's attacking, the Indians had managed to scatter the field; the least they needed to have done during this phase is to have kept them scattered. To see Yuvraj still scoreless, and immaculate in defense, after 24 deliveries, before finally pushing one past point and breaking into a smile, is frankly a disgrace. There's still some action out there - but the game is effectively over, hence no reason to bore you with irrelevancies. Over, and out till Test 4.

Prem Panicker
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