Third Cornhill Test

ENGLAND v INDIA

David Field

At Nottingham, July 4, 5, 6, 8, 9. Drawn. Toss: India. Test debut: M. A. Ealham.

Reports that showers would seriously disrupt the final Test proved to be incorrect, but the forecast that a flat and slowish pitch would prevent a result was more accurate. The match was duly drawn, although England persevered commendably to dismiss India in 69 overs on the fifth day. India were bowled out 168 ahead, bringing down the curtain on a match graced by the batting artistry of Tendulkar and Ganguly, their precocious left handed discovery. For England, it was marked by the continued success of Hussain in England's problem berth at No. 3, and by Atherton's determined service.

The draw was an odds-on favourite before the start, and history also discouraged India's hopes of squaring the series. In 37 series of Tests in England, no visiting team had managed to pull level in the final game after conceding the early advantage. England claimed the series by virtue of their eight-wicket triumph at Birmingham, only their fourth home series win out of the last 14 (excluding two one-off wins over Sri Lanka) since Australia's defeat in 1985.

Azharuddin, under pressure to retain the captaincy he had held with distinction since 1990, won the toss for the third time and elected to bat on a cloudy, blustery day. He needed no second look at a solid surface which had driven many a bowler to frustration during the first half of the summer. India replaced the seamer Mhambrey with the left-armer Raju to augment the strength and variety of the spin attack, omitted Jadeja and brought back experienced middle-order batsman Manjrekar, absent at Lord's because of an ankle injury. England fielded the two Kent players Ealham and Patel, instead of Irani and Martin. Irani, along with Salisbury, had been in the 13.

The home side quickly claimed the wickets of Rathore, one ball before a half-hour rain delay, and Mongia soon after. But that was no prelude to an Indian collapse, though it threatened when Tendulkar gave a chance before scoring; Atherton failed to hold it at gully. Instead, Tendulkar and the cool, stylish Ganguly settled in to bat beautifully for the rest of the first day and, but the close, the partnership was an unbeaten 254. England bowled tidily, without too much threat, but the pitch was proving to be an old-fashioned Shirtfront as expected. Tendulkar completed his tenth Test hundred, and fourth against England, with 15 fours, while Ganguly joined an elite club formed by West Indians Lawrence Rowe and Alvin Kallicharran, the only batsmen who had previously scored centuries in their first two Test innings. (They had done it in the same series, against New Zealand in 1971-72.) Ganguly took it philosophically, "What's important is how well I do in the rest of my Test career," he said.

His aim was to help India bat into the third day, but he made no addition to his overnight 136. In a fine piece of aggressive left-arm bowling, Mullally jammed Ganguly's hand against the bat handle with a sharp lifter. After he received on-field treatment, the next ball was fast and further up. Ganguly played an expansive open-faced drive and was taken at third slip by Hussain. He had batted for six hours and 268 balls. Tendulkar lasted for seven and a half hours, making a superb 177, Manjrekar contributed a solid half-century, then Dravid followed up his 95 on debut with 84, to confirm that discoveries of talent and temperament can still surface in a series defeat. As at Lord's, Dravid's bat had a mellow ring to it and even his defensive strokes had the hallmark of class.

Determined bowling had kept India to 521, a formidable total, but less than England had feared. In reply, they reached 32 from 11 overs that evening and the opening pair were doubtless pleased to walk off together; it had been tough going, despite the quality of the pitch. Atherton had escaped on nought when Dravid let a slip chance elude him (like Tendulkar, he was to make the opposition pay dearly) and Stewart did his fair share of playing and missing against India's skilled new-ball partners, Srinath and Prasad. Atherton gave another hard chance to Azharuddin at slip on 34; Stewart, on the other hand, looked unlucky to be given caught behind by Sri Lankan umpire K. T. Francis after a hard-fought fifty.

That brought in Hussain, who epitomised the confident batsman. Driving fluently and enjoying the feel-good factor, he scored 25 from his first 16 balls and completed his second hundred in three Tests, although some Indian fieldsmen were convinced he had been caught behind off Tendulkar when 74. Atherton had reached his tenth Test century - his fourth at Nottingham - 90 minutes after lunch, without ever looking convincing. He was beaten a fair number of times, but stuck to his task throughout the third day. England had averted the follow-on just before the close, consigning the match to stalemate. They had lost only the one wicket, though they were effectively deprived of another when Hussain fractured his right index finger in the last over. He failed a net try-out on Monday morning and retired hurt on 107. Atherton remained, reaching 160, his second-highest Test score, in seven and a half hours before being taken at slip. Thorpe lacked his usual fluency and Hick laboured long and fruitlessly, but Ealham stuck 51 on debut and the tail secured a lead of 43.

This had little consequence, though Ealham's promising start continued when his lively seam bowling picked up four wickets in India's second innings. Tendulkar had time to strike a polished 74, and Ganguly was dismissed by Cork halfway to history, in pursuit of a unique third hundred in his first three Test innings.

Man of the Match: S. C. Ganguly. Attendance: 37,589; receipts £740,810.

Men of the Series: England - N. Hussain; India - S. C. Ganguly.

Close of play: First day, India 287-2 (S. C. Ganguly 136*, S. R. Tendulkar 123*); Second day, England 32-0 (M. A. Atherton 21*, A. J. Stewart 10*); Third day, England 322-1 (M. A. Artherton 145*, N. Hussain 107*); Fourth day, England 550-7 (D. G. Cork 24*, M. M. Patel 22*).

© John Wisden & Co