England v India, 1st Test, Lord's, 5th day July 23, 2007

Dravid - "We got out of jail"



It was tense, but India pulled through for a draw © Getty Images

A murky day, when one might have been tempted to sit indoors and mope around, ended with an ecstatic Indian contingent dancing around the Nursery Ground and chanting, 'Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega' [They will win, they will win, India will win]. Victory in this match was obviously not on their minds but in case they were referring to winning the series, they have history on their side: only twice have India not lost a series opener in England and on both occasions (in 1971 and 1986) they've gone on to win it.

One of the chief architects of this draw, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, gave his thoughts after the match (the other architect, the weather, decided to stay away) and said it was a result that "almost felt like a win". A most relieved Rahul Dravid admitted they'd "gotten out of jail" but immediately pointed out the positives they could take out of this.

The biggest plus is that they've negotiated more than 90 overs in the final innings of the match. Unlike Durban late last year (179 in 55.1 overs) or Mumbai a couple of seasons earlier (100 in 48.2 overs) or Karachi a few months before (265 in 58.4) or even Bangalore the previous year (214 in 90 overs), they've got through 96 overs on a tough pitch, against a probing attack, in largely chilly conditions. The last time they got through 90 overs in the fourth innings of an away Test was back in Lord's in 2002.

Their gumption would have counted for nothing if the weather had held and, for once, India actually came away smiling. A few minutes after losing the Kingston Test, and the series, in 2002, the rains arrived and didn't stop for close to two weeks; half an hour after going down in the Durban Test last year, the light deteriorated rapidly. These instances made defeat look even worse - to lose a match is one thing, to lose your head quite another.

"I must admit that this thought did cross my mind," Dravid said of the times when India had failed in such situations. "[In] a couple of Test matches, we knew if we'd batted for an extra half an hour, we might have saved the match. Of course we had a bit of luck but it's nice to get away with one of these rather than lose them. I'm glad that Dhoni, along with the tail, batted through a difficult period for us in tough light and got us there."

I'm glad that Dhoni, along with the tail, batted through a difficult period for us in tough light and got us there

Dhoni's showing in this Test summed up India's performance. He was out in an embarrassing fashion in the first innings - unable to handle two short deliveries directed at his body and gliding the second tamely to third slip - but battled it out today. Luck was on his side: there was a meaty edge that Paul Collingwood at first slip didn't latch on to, a thin one that Simon Taufel didn't detect, and a dead-certain lbw appeal that Steve Bucknor turned down. Importantly, Dhoni didn't give it away.

He was forced to curb his naturally attacking style but one caught glimpses of the familiar Dhoni swagger during the knock. A confident Dhoni is a hyper-active batsman - walking fast to talk to his partner between overs, fidgety at the crease, constantly removing his gloves and putting them back on, swaggering towards square leg and back, running as if there was no tomorrow. He wasn't allowed to explore his range of strokes but exuded confidence in his punches. Even towards the end, with light fading and only the No.11 for company, he didn't look to simply defend; he attacked hard despite not going for the singles. As the field came up for the final two deliveries, he tried to pinch a single. He pulled it off on three occasions; the other instance, he struck it too clean and it raced away for four.

His wicketkeeping in this game wasn't up to scratch but, as Michael Vaughan acknowledged, the swinging conditions made life difficult behind the stumps. His fifty, though, meant that four of India's players who were playing their first Test in England (RP Singh, Sreesanth, Dinesh Karthik and Dhoni) went away with their reputations enhanced. Dravid commended the "least well known" members of the batting line-up but wished "some of the others recreate their earlier performances".

England no doubt head to Trent Bridge as the more confident side but India must remember what Sourav Ganguly once said, after his never-to-be-forgotten shirt waving antics at Lord's: "I don't understand the meaning of moral victories".

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo