Tendulkar and Ganguly make light of Headingley gloom
Just under an hour's play was lost at the start of the second morning of the third npower Test at Headingley, but the Indian batsmen more than made up for lost time with a spectacular display of batting skills while the England bowlers laboured in conditions that should have helped them. Rahul Dravid went on as surely as ever and, when he was eventually out, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly raised individual hundreds in a fourth wicket partnership worth 249.
When play did get under way beneath slate-grey skies, there were the expected examples of the bat being passed but without taking the edge, and increasingly Dravid and Tendulkar imposed themselves. As ever in these conditions, there was encouragement for the bowlers, but there were numerous instances of frustration that were seized upon rather than the consistent inspiration that was required.
Matthew Hoggard even induced Tendulkar to drive uppishly through the covers for four, and when the next ball was whipped off his legs for another boundary, Nasser Hussain switched Andrew Caddick to bowl down hill, without any more success. That was just one of a number of changes made to the bowling, but all with the same result. Just before lunch, Hussain even resorted to trying the occasional medium pace of Mark Butcher who was undoubtedly short of bowling since his knee operation. He also gave one over to Michael Vaughan.
The batsmen, meanwhile, were quickly giving momentum to the innings. The first ten overs of the morning produced 41 runs, with seven fours. Dravid went to his highest score against England while Tendulkar passed fifty with an exciting pull off Tudor.
The batsmen continued to make healthy progress after lunch with Tendulkar in particular showing a range of shots that should have been closed to mere mortals in these conditions. The bowlers did get a boost, however, when the third wicket partnership had put on 150.
Ashley Giles drew Dravid down the pitch, beat him in the air and Alec Stewart did the rest. Dravid's innings had lasted just over seven hours, he had faced 307 balls and hit 23 boundaries. He had been bruised and battered about the hands but had never flinched and the value of his innings in the circumstances cannot be overstated.
Ganguly settled quickly to his task after what is now the traditional greeting from Andrew Flintoff in particular who delivered a considerable number of balls in his own half. Meanwhile Tendulkar was in imperious form. He went to his century with an exquisite on-drive off the bowling of Giles for his thirteenth boundary after facing 171 balls. It was his sixth hundred off the England attack in 15 matches and his 30th Test century in all. Only his great hero, Sunil Gavaskar, has scored more.
It became evident during the extended afternoon session that England stood little chance of bowling India out and it became a question of when Ganguly was likely to make the declaration. He was in no hurry to do so while there were rich pickings to be had and England could be batted out of the match.
While Tendulkar went on remorselessly, Ganguly brought up his fifty with a six off Giles. A spectator tried to do what England's fielders had been unable to do, namely catch Ganguly. Unfortunately for the man in the stands, his moment of glory became somewhat tarnished when the ball crashed into his head and he was led away for treatment from the medics. Robert Key did not receive the same attention when he dropped Ganguly off a straightforward chance at slip when the Indian captain had 62. Certainly the bowler, Caddick, did not appear to be inquiring after Key's health.
Perhaps the fielder was inconvenienced by the light, or lack of it, for it was shortly afterwards that the umpires offered it to the batsmen who declined to go off. Memories went back to Trent Bridge when, with fewer than the four lights showing on the board here, England's batsmen had scurried to the pavilion in similar circumstances.
Tendulkar and Ganguly took no notice of the gloom (there were now five lights shining brightly) as they clattered the bowling to all parts. They added 47 from three overs before Tendulkar reached 150 and Ganguly went to his hundred from 156 balls with 12 fours and a six. He then smashed Giles for a six over mid-wicket, changed his bat, and proved the new one was just as good by hitting another six next ball and then a one-bounce four in an over that cost 23.
The 11 overs with the second new ball cost 96 runs, including five sixes and nine fours, when Ganguly swung and missed at a straight ball from Alex Tudor and was bowled for 128. It was a thrilling innings that could be allowed to be run its course because a declaration would have inevitably brought a close because of the light.
VVS Laxman made his way to the middle and then returned to the pavilion as the gloom was overwhelming. Grinning broadly, he followed Tendulkar in with 185 not out to his name. It seems a very short time ago that questions were being asked about his continuing mastery. This was the perfect answer.