December 13, 2001

England take commanding lead despite glittering Tendulkar ton

England lead India by 131 runs with all their second innings wickets intact after an enthralling third day in the second Test at Ahmedabad. Ashley Giles took five wickets as India were bowled out for 291, despite a glittering century from Sachin Tendulkar and 75 from VVS Laxman. At the close England were 15 without loss.

An expectant Ahmedabad crowd got an early taste of Tendulkar as Richard Dawson was swept to the midwicket boundary in the first over of the morning. Dawson made way for Giles after just one over, but it was Matthew Hoggard who made the breakthrough when Rahul Dravid was caught behind by Jamie Foster, playing an indeterminate stroke outside the off stump to leave India on 86 for 3.

Sourav Ganguly's arrival prompted Nasser Hussain to call up Andy Flintoff, and the Lancastrian immediately obliged as the Indian captain edged a ball that was slanting across him to the safe hands of substitute Martyn Ball at first slip.

As England's bowlers kept a tight line, Tendulkar and Laxman remained largely on the defensive. But Tendulkar greeted the return of Dawson with boundaries in consecutive overs, one driven exquisitely through extra cover, the other cut behind square as the bowler dropped marginally short.

In pleasantly cool conditions and in front of the largest crowd of the game so far at the Motera Stadium, Tendulkar completed a patient 50 by cutting Hoggard to the boundary backward of point. It was already a vital contribution, but the landmark signalled a change of tempo. India's hero now showed why he is widely regarded as the world's premier batsman, with a delightful display of artistry.

Tendulkar's class shone through as he worked two Hoggard deliveries outside the off stump for boundaries between mid-on and midwicket. Hoggard's rueful smile was respectful as well as phlegmatic. It was the last over of his spell, but Dawson's re-introduction met with the sternest of receptions, as Tendulkar drove him imperiously over the long-on boundary.

As Tendulkar twinkled, Laxman was primarily supportive. The hundred partnership came off 175 balls, with the taller man contributing just 23. To a rapturous reception, Tendulkar then swung Hoggard away behind square leg to reach his 27th Test hundred. His second 50 had taken just 55 balls.

It took a rare blemish to dismiss him, as he drove Hoggard without quite getting on top of the delivery. To England's delight Hussain held on to the catch at the second attempt at mid-on. Virender Sehwag announced himself with some wristy legside flicks, but Craig White soon won a marginal lbw decision from umpire Jayaprakash as Sehwag was hit just above the knee-roll playing from the crease.

With the door now ajar, Ashley Giles wasted no time in kicking it open. He produced a gem of a delivery to dismiss Anil Kumble, bowled off stump as the ball turned out of the rough around middle and leg. In Giles' next over Harbhajan drove recklessly to Flintoff at cover. Javagal Srinath was then caught off bat and pad by Mark Butcher at silly point.

Tinu Yohannan held an end up briefly as Laxman played some mighty strokes through midwicket, but India's innings ended on 291 when Laxman went for 75, trying the stroke once too often and holing out to Mark Butcher. Giles ended with Test-best figures of five for 67.

As England batted for just three overs before the close, Marcus Trescothick was fortunate to take four to fine leg from an inside edge off Yohannan. An authentic cut gleaned four more to third man, and England finished in firm control of the match at 15 for no wicket, 131 runs ahead.