England on the verge of victory at Lord's

Ralph Dellor

July 28, 2002

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Only some stalwart batting from VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar who compiled a fifty partnership for the seventh wicket as the shadows lengthened denied England a win within four days. Having been set an unlikely target of 568 to win themselves after centuries from Michael Vaughan and John Crawley, India's batting crumbled for the second time and only the weather could possibly intervene to prevent England from going one-up in the series.

Another warm, sunny day at Lord's for the fourth day had began the way the third day had ended - with Vaughan and Crawley unreeling some flashing strokes to extend England's already substantial lead.

Vaughan profited from one square drive off the bowling of Ashish Nehra, causing Sourav Ganguly to post a sweeper on the cover boundary. However, while such areas can provide thrilling runs for the right-hander facing a left-arm over the wicket bowler, it can also be fraught with danger for the bat is scarcely on the line of the ball.

He was not driving when he edged the ninth ball of the day, from Nehra, and Ajay Ratra claimed the catch. The television replay left considerable doubt as to whether the ball had carried and what doubt there was went in favour of the batsman.

Safely at the other end, Vaughan played an immaculate straight drive off Anil Kumble that rattled the railings in front of the pavilion. Next ball, he played an ungainly fetch that looped tantalisingly over Zaheer Khan at mid-on, allowing him to get the three runs needed for his hundred.

That took Vaughan to face the start of a new over from Nehra, the first ball of which was deposited into Wasim Jaffer's hands at point with some force and causing the fielder to move smartly to his right.

Sachin Tendulkar did not have to move anywhere to account for Andrew Flintoff. Nehra had just been driven with immense gusto to the extra cover boundary when he dropped one a trifle short, Flintoff instinctively went for the pull and Tendulkar merely had to stand at deep square leg for the ball to drop into his hands.

Alec Stewart joined the run chase, reaching 33 before he went down the wicket to Kumble to be stumped, allowing Craig White to join Crawley who went to his hundred with a push through the covers for two, at which point Hussain declared.

Survival was obviously the name of the game during the five overs up until lunch, but after that mere occupation of the crease was not a viable option and the batsmen had to play naturally.

The fourth ball after lunch very nearly saw the demise of Virender Sehwag when Flintoff found the edge only for Nasser Hussain to drop a chest-high catch to his right. That was the signal for the batsmen to cut loose, with 46 runs coming from the next four overs.

Sehwag was perhaps fortunate to survive when padding up to a ball from Flintoff that would have hit the stumps but was called a no ball. He had no such reprieve when Jones came into the attack for the 13th over. His second ball was the perfect delivery for a fast bowler. It beat Sehwag for pace and clipped the top of off stump with theatrical consequences. Officially timed at only 83.6 mph, it certainly appeared quicker than that for it is something of a collector's item when an English fast bowler sent a stump cartwheeling out of the ground in such conclusive fashion.

Wasim Jaffer went on to bring up his fifty from 63 balls with seven fours. England were forced to juggle their bowling resources in search of a wicket and found one from a most unlikely source. Vaughan was called into the attack, extracted some turn and bounce, and found the edge of Wasim Jaffer's bat. This time, Hussain made no mistake at slip so that at tea, India were 121 for 2 with Rahul Dravid, on a watchful 34, joined by Sachin Tendulkar and still 447 required to win. It was Vaughan's first Test wicket.

The presence of Tendulkar and India's record of making bold chases undoubtedly coloured Hussain's judgement when it came to setting a target. However, a significant part of the equation became irrelevant when Hoggard was brought into the attack after the interval.

With his fourth ball he spread-eagled Tendulkar's stumps via his pad. Will Tendulkar ever get a Lord's century in Indian colours? Will Ganguly get another run at Lord's? Not on the evidence of this innings. The next ball after Tendulkar's dismissal hit Ganguly on the pad. Although television data suggested it might have been going over the top, he was given out lbw and in two balls Hoggard had ripped the heart out of the Indian innings.

Both Dravid and VVS Laxman sell their wicket more dearly than some other more flamboyant colleagues, and the job of survival was now theirs alone. Dravid had survived, and more, for 112 balls and had hit ten fours in his 63 when he faced up to Ashley Giles' third ball of a new spell. To get an inside edge onto the stumps is always unfortunate, although it has to be said that playing away from the body does encourage the possibility.

Ajay Ratra was not playing away from his body. A ball from Hoggard opened him up and, as he tried to fend it off to leg, it took the outside edge to fly into the gully where Mark Butcher got both hands to the catch as he dived to his left.

England strove to find another wicket to open the door to an early finish. They will have to come back again to finish the job on which so much of the groundwork has already been completed. For the statistically minded, India still need another 336 runs to win. If they get them, a squadron of Gloucester Old Spots might be seen flying past the pavilion.

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