Kumble bows out with tame draw
Anil Kumble's 18-year Test career ended without the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in his hands but India still have a strong chance to claim the prize in Nagpur after batting out a draw at the Feroz Shah Kotla
VVS Laxman added a half-century to his first-innings double-hundred
Anil Kumble's 18-year Test career ended without the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in his hands but India still have a strong chance to claim the prize in Nagpur after batting out a draw at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Kumble did get a chance to bowl one final time following his surprise declaration half an hour after tea and there was a tear in his eye as he embarked on his final over.
He took the new ball, although he couldn't add to his 619 Test wickets and his last ball in 132 Tests was a full toss that was driven straight down the ground for four by Matthew Hayden. A better way to remember Kumble might be his final Test wicket; he had closed Australia's first innings with a running catch off his own bowling that demonstrated his courage as he had 11 stitches in his left hand.
The handshakes and pats on the back Kumble received as he left the field for the final time meant an emotional end to a day that had looked as predictable as a Mills and Boon novel after Australia struggled to spark the collapse they needed in the first few hours. They picked up two wickets in the first session and one in the third but India's resolute middle order, led by VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar, had little trouble on a pitch that had less life than John McCain's presidential campaign.
Laxman added an unbeaten 59 to his first-innings double-century, Tendulkar made a useful 47 and Sourav Ganguly threw in a couple of lusty blows towards the end as the game fizzled out of reach of both teams. Not for the first time this series Australia looked incapable of claiming the 20 wickets typically needed to win a Test - they snared only 12 in this game - but on this occasion the benign surface was more responsible than their bowlers.
The day had started with Australia searching for eight wickets, preferably in a hurry, to give themselves a realistic run-chase. India were happy to play for time and, despite losing Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid before lunch, never did they appear in serious danger.
In what was effectively a short encore of his unbeaten 200, Laxman flicked deliveries through leg and crunched Michael Clarke's spin through the off-side for simple but well-executed boundaries. He brought up his half-century with just such a stroke - a four driven through cover when Clarke sent down a full toss.
He combined with Tendulkar for a 52-run partnership that ate up nearly 21 overs and was, by their exquisite standards, remarkably sedate. But that was exactly what India needed and by the time Cameron White picked up Tendulkar for the second time in the series, with an edge to slip from a genuine legbreak, the pair had dead-batted the life out of the match.
Tendulkar did provide some enjoyable moments for the Delhi crowd; a couple of excellent back-foot drives for four off Brett Lee early in his innings brought loud cheers. But he eased into an unhurried and cautious mindset once he lost his initial partner Gambhir, who was unfortunate to be judged lbw for 36 to a Johnson inswinger that would have missed leg stump.
Unlike Tendulkar and later Laxman, Gambhir seemed to forget entirely about scoring and in an hour and a half he added only 15 to his overnight total. He was clearly keen to build a wall of his own after India's usual brick barrier, Dravid, played on to a fast Lee inswinger for 11. The two strikes gave Australia a glimmer of hope but the pitch refused to crumble and so did India's middle order.
Despite the inevitable outcome, both teams will take positives to Nagpur. Australia's top five each passed fifty and the bowlers showed genuine enthusiasm in unhelpful circumstances. India witnessed double-centuries from two class batsmen, although whether Gambhir will play in the final Test is still uncertain as he awaits the result of an appeal against his one-Test ban.
In any case, India ensured that they will regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy unless Australia pinch a series-ending victory. The strange thing is that if they do take possession of the trophy, it won't be Kumble who first gets his hands on it.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo