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April 14, 2002
It was one of those days for India abroad. None of the big travel companies that sell tours in the cool climes of the Caribbean talk of the day-to-day trials Indian batsmen face. In keeping with a day that did not go by their brochures then, it was fittingly the man who gets least credit and maximum criticism for being a dead bore who saved the day for India. After notching his tenth Test ton, Rahul Dravid carried on, remaining unbeaten on 144 (347 balls, 23 fours). At the other end, Sarandeep Singh irritated the Windies with 39 as India remained annoyingly not out when rain came down and ended the day with their score on 395/7.
There's only one road this match is now going down. The one that has a few pleasant view-points on the way, some excellent scenery, and no result at all. But that wasn't the case when the day started. India were in trouble trying to get past the follow-on mark.
It had looked an easy enough task when VVS Laxman got into his groove very early on. No nervousness, no tension and no half-measures. Taking the bowling on, Laxman played some exquisite cuts, winding his way to 69 (113 balls, 11 fours) before falling against the grain of play. There were a few stutters after that, but Dravid with a crucial knock managed to take India safely past the follow-on mark.
Rahul Dravid's contribution outside the subcontinent has been sterling. On the day, the middle-order bat was in trouble early on, ducking into a steep bouncer from Mervyn Dillon. Rapped on the side of the helmet, Dravid required medical attention from physio Andrew Leipus before he could bat on.
After that, however, there was no trouble at all for Dravid. Getting well on top of the ball, a high left elbow and the full face of the bat saw the mediumpacers get completely frustrated.
A red-hot Cameron Cuffy removed Laxman just when Indian fans began to delight in the wide array of strokes on display. Anything short with just a bit of width thrown in was cut away with precision and power, beating the field with ease. Too much came too easy though, and Laxman ended up playing a half-hearted drive that Gayle pouched at slip, off the edge.
Dravid, meanwhile, motored on manfully in the hope that Sanjay Bangar would stick around and provide him some company. There was to be no such luck however. Before he could live up to theories that he was lending balance to the side, Bangar was trapped plumb in front by Cuffy for a duck.
Anil Kumble (3) gave Adam Sanford his second Test wicket, presenting Nagamootoo at point with a straightforward catch.
The period from lunch to tea is often a phase of consolidation, a time of limited action. With the follow-on avoided and not much to play for, in terms of an Indian win, Rahul Dravid and Sarandeep Singh saw to it that runs were gathered in the most painless and safe manner.
So the follow-on had been avoided. And Dravid had notched up his 10th Test ton.
Sarandeep Singh had nothing to lose when he took guard. After all, his bowling had hardly set the turf on fire. When he came in at number nine, however, he proved to be a thorn in the flesh of the Windies.
A handy bat in domestic cricket, Sarandeep Singh has been more than useful as a nightwatchman for his home state - Punjab. Coming in with the light fading and with the expressed aim of shielding senior batsmen, the lad has come up with fifties and more that have frustrated opposition bowlers.
Today was no exception. West Indies bowlers would have had little problem with Dravid picking off the runs in a field set to get his partner on strike. The unbeaten 40 by Sarandeep Singh would, though, have frustrated them no end.
With just a day's play remaining, this Test is clearly going nowhere. Better call it off early and have a good barbeque.
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