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July 27, 2002
At the start of the third day, England were favourites to win, the draw could not be discounted and there was just an outside chance that India could get back into the match. At the end of the day, Indian hopes have been effectively extinguished. For that, they need look no further than an inept batting display. To be bowled out for 221 on this pitch indicates a serious lack of resolve that is likely to be punished in the course of the next two days.
With Simon Jones claiming his first Test scalps, and generally causing the batsmen to hop around a bit, and with wickets falling at regular intervals, India found themselves in rapid decline. Without taking anything away from the England bowlers, the Indian batsmen will have asked some searching questions of themselves for allowing so many wickets to fall on this pitch. At least, they should have been asking themselves those questions.
A full house gathered at Lord's in anticipation of a Sachin Tendulkar run-feast came perilously close to disappointment when he had just ten to his name. Jones, working up a fair head of steam from the pavilion end, found a great delivery from around the wicket that opened up Tendulkar. An outside edge went low down to first slip where Graham Thorpe failed to cling on to a chance that just about carried and should have been held.
After the drop, Tendulkar gave mere glimpses of his class, as did Dravid at the other end. Dravid had been watchful throughout his innings. At one point yesterday he went for 50 minutes without adding to his score. When he found the boundary off the 144th ball he faced, it was his first since the 33rd.
The England bowlers kept the scoring rate in check with some controlled aggression. Jones in particular looked understandably more relaxed than the previous day and found sufficient rhythm to cause moments of anxiety as the batsmen hurried their strokes.
England got the breakthrough for which they were probing when Matthew Hoggard found the first ball to misbehave on this otherwise perfect pitch. From just short of a length, he got one to lift appreciably as Dravid tried to withdraw his bottom hand, but the ball looped to backward point where Michael Vaughan held a simple catch.
As ever, the major wicket was Tendulkar's. White had been bowling well but as so often happens, it was not the best ball he has ever bowled that got one of his most valuable victims. It was short and outside the off stump, causing Tendulkar to have a wild slash that only succeeded in finding the edge and Alec Stewart made no mistake.
As is always the case when a batsman of Tendulkar's class and reputation is out, there was an extra bounce to the steps of the fielding side while those in the pavilion find their heads dropping. Sourav Ganguly gave a tame catch to Vaughan in the gully off Andrew Flintoff, before Jones managed to take his first wicket at this level when Ajay Ratra flashed at a short ball to edge to the keeper.
Having waited 16 overs for that success, his lbw appeal was turned down next ball but in his next over had Ajit Agarkar caught at slip. White came back to bowl Anil Kumble with the score on 209 - still 79 short of avoiding the follow-on.
By farming the strike, VVS Laxman managed to add another 12 runs and prolong the end, which came when Zaheer Khan was caught by Thorpe off Hoggard, leaving Laxman undefeated on 43. India were 266 behind, but Nasser Hussain opted against enforcing the follow-on and chose to bat again on a pitch that was showing little sign of wear.
The openers were settling into their task without either Zaheer or Nehra getting the same movement as in the first innings. However, Kumble was introduced to bowl the ninth over and with his fifth ball claimed a wicket. Mark Butcher went to sweep and, although he protested otherwise, made no contact and was out lbw.
Psychologists might have the answer to why Hussain has not gone beyond twenty in the second innings after scoring a Test hundred in the first, but whatever the reason, he maintained the pattern here. Agarkar got a lot of lift from just short of a length, for Hussain to have a wild flash and touch it to the wicket-keeper.
Thorpe has not had a happy return to the international scene. One catch held, one dropped, four from one shot in the first innings, and now just a single in the second. He cut Kumble uppishly into the covers for Ganguly to dive forward to take the catch. Thorpe dwelt in the middle as his fate sunk in before leaving for the sanctuary of the pavilion.
At that point, further wickets could have just opened a chink for India. Vaughan and John Crawley effectively closed even that small opening with some sensible batting that illustrated to their opponents what could be achieved in these conditions with the right application. That was reflected in the statistics for Vaughan's fifty - 78 balls with just four boundaries - although he was dropped by the wicket-keeper immediately after getting there. That, and the earlier spurned chance by Wasim Jaffer at point that gave Crawley a life, will undoubtedly be a source of regret before long - if it is not already.
Crawley completed a second fifty in the match as the pair started to increase the range of their strokeplay so that by the close of play, the only question left unanswered was at what point Hussain will declare. Time, along with everything else, is certainly on his side.
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