England were denied victory in the first Test at Lord's when bad light and rain closed in with India nine wickets down. Five minutes before tea Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with a valiant 76 to his name, and Sreesanth were offered the light after surviving five overs against Monty Panesar and Michael Vaughan. England thought they had Sreesanth lbw, but Steve Bucknor turned down Panesar's vehement appeal, and it was their last chance before the weather had the final say.
Everyone knew the British summer was likely to have a decisive say in the outcome, but its predicted arrival held off for almost two sessions as England pushed for victory. In a tension-filled passage of play Vaughan was forced to turn to himself and Panesar as England attempted to stay on the field. It almost worked. Panesar accounted for RP Singh with a well-flighted delivery but the shot from Singh wasn't what India needed as they tried to survive the fading light.
Sreesanth then survived the huge appeal for lbw off Panesar and Dhoni went about saving the match in unique style, launching two boundaries off Vaughan. All the Indian players in the dressing room were looking skywards and there was huge relief when Steve Bucknor and Simon Taufel agreed it had become too dark. But England's young attack had again outgunned India's star-studded battling line-up and will travel to Trent Bridge for the second Test with huge belief, albeit tinged with frustration.
It had been nip and tuck all day. Each time there was a sense of England running out of time they would snap up another wicket. Chris Tremlett castled VVS Laxman to break a vital stand of 86 with Dhoni and, as spots of rain began to fall, he returned with the new ball to remove Zaheer Khan with a gloved pull down the leg side. The shot selection from Zaheer, and later Singh, didn't do India any favours and it wasn't until Sreesanth put his head down against the spinners that the bowlers showed the necessary diligence.
Though the weather provided India with their ultimate escape route, Dhoni deserves much of the credit for his innings. When these teams last met, in Mumbai, he was heavily criticised for his wild heave against Shaun Udal as India collapsed on the final day. He certainly wasn't all-out defence here, and kept England's fielders interested, but played responsibly for 159 balls. Early on he flashed a cut past the left hand of Paul Collingwood at slip and, leading up to lunch, was given a fierce working over from Anderson. One edge fell short of slip, another ball reared off a length and another nicked the sleeve through to Matt Prior and Taufel made a good decision.
England made the first breakthrough four overs into the day when Sourav Ganguly was caught on the crease by Sidebottom. Ganguly was unconvincing, beginning the day with a lazy waft outside off stump, and England's bowlers stuck to their plans. Dinesh Karthik managed one scoring stroke, a square drive for four, before he edged a full delivery from Anderson to Collingwood at second slip. Anderson again moved the ball both ways, and beat Dhoni's first-ball drive as the wicketkeeper looked nervous while sitting on a pair, but wasn't quite as consistent as the first innings with two attempted inswingers flying down the leg side.
Dhoni finally opened his account off his 14th ball but flirted with danger on numerous occasions. In a near repeat of his first-innings dismissal he guided Anderson over the slips and clearly wasn't going to change his natural game despite India's rocky position. He flashed and missed against another short ball and almost edged a drive during Collingwood's change-of-ends over.
After his teasing spell yesterday evening, when he removed Sachin Tendulkar, Panesar's introduction into the attack was eagerly anticipated. After one over from the Pavilion End he was switched around and immediately found turn. Vaughan switched his bowlers around and Laxman and Dhoni picked of a series of sweet drives. The pair began positively after the interval, opening up the outside prospect of India getting close to their target. But when Laxman fell that notion vanished and it turned it a race against time for England. They could not quite make it, in agonising fashion.