Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012
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At Lord's, July 21-25. England won by 196 runs. Toss: India. This was a match full of outstanding figures, as befitted the 2,000th Test and the 100th
This was a match full of outstanding figures, as befitted the 2,000th Test and the 100th between England and India. But an even more magical number never happened: Tendulkar went into the game with 99 international centuries and left with his highest score from five Tests at Lord's still only 37. England, who dominated after a hesitant start, closed in on another important figure: India's No. 1 Test ranking. And they did so in front of a last-day crowd of 27,728 - perhaps the most vivid number of the lot.
The early exchanges went India's way. Dhoni chose to bowl on an overcast first morning - the start was delayed by half an hour - and Zaheer Khan trapped Cook in front during a probing spell of 7-3-9-1. When he returned after lunch to send down four successive maidens, Strauss top-edged a pull to fine leg. But Zaheer's third spell brought a summer- changing moment: in his 14th over, he grimaced, felt the back of his right leg, and trudged out of the match - and, it transpired, the series - with hamstring trouble. The release of tension was palpable. When bad light and rain ended play soon afterwards, England had lost only two wickets in testing conditions.
On the second day they made the most of the sunshine - and Zaheer's absence. Trott fell for a tidy 70, and Bell unfurled some enterprising shots. All the while Pietersen had been playing himself in once more after an opening day in which he grafted to 22 from 73 deliveries. On 49, he flicked Kumar to a cleverly placed leg slip, where Dravid appeared to take a good low catch. But, as usual in these cases, the TV replays were little help, and Pietersen survived. He made the most of the reprieve, reaching his 18th Test century, and his first in England for almost three years, since the one that marked the start of his brief captaincy. But it was not until he was past 130 that he started to play with the freedom that had brought him a double-hundred in Adelaide seven months earlier. Prior produced a sparky innings and, after Broad fell first ball, Swann helped add a quick 61. Pietersen became the 12th man to score 6,000 runs for England as he powered towards his third Test double-century, against some undemanding bowling: in 28.4 overs after tea on the second day England added 169 before the declaration. In all, Pietersen faced 326 balls in 494 minutes, and hit a six (off Raina, to move to 196) and 21 fours.
The outstanding bowler was Kumar, a stockier version of India's 1970s trundler Madan Lal. Although he rarely nudged the speed gun beyond 80mph, Kumar swung the ball around, and deserved his maiden Test five-for. With Zaheer missing, and Sharma and Harbhajan Singh largely ineffective, he had to shoulder a heavy burden, and India's problems meant Dhoni became the first wicketkeeper in 123 Lord's Tests to take off his pads and bowl. Kapil Dev, India's other World Cup-winning captain, grumbled that Dhoni was "demeaning Test cricket", but he bowled at a respectable medium-pace, had a good lbw shout against Pietersen first ball, and actually had him given out caught behind by his stand-in, Dravid, for 73 in his next over, only for the decision to be overturned on review when Hot Spot failed to show an edge.
Mukund and Gambhir, India's first left-handed opening pair to start a Test, began brightly in pursuit of 474, before a superb delivery from Broad gated Gambhir to end a stand of 63; Mukund, all angles in the stance, dragged on. That brought in Tendulkar, shortly before lunch on the third day, to tumultuous applause. His partnership with the reassuringly solid Dravid rose inexorably to 81, and he looked in fine touch - until he edged another pitched-up delivery from Broad, and Swann at second slip took the catch falling to his left.
Dravid remained. He countered the moving ball by reaching out calmly and driving, his feet almost always in the right place, front knee bent as per the coaching manual, hands swishing through with a flourish. Tendulkar might have missed out, but Dravid made sure of his own place on the honours board with his 33rd Test century - having fallen five short on debut here in 1996. When he reached 50, he moved past Ricky Ponting (12,363 at the time) into second place on the Test run-scorers' list, behind only Tendulkar. His century meant India's so-called galacticos - Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman - had 100 Test hundreds between them.
However, the others were unable to match Dravid's example. Four of the last six failed to score, and the sequence was broken only by 102 minutes of resistance from Dhoni, plus Kumar's cheerful slogging. The follow-on was narrowly avoided, but England's lead was still a chunky 188. Broad, only narrowly preferred to Tim Bresnan after a mediocre series against Sri Lanka, finished with the best return, due reward for pitching the ball up to encourage late swing. He might have had even better figures, but both Laxman (before he had scored) and Dravid (42) were dropped in the slips just after he removed Tendulkar.
Despite the big deficit, Dravid spoke bullishly of India's chances, and his optimism seemed justified when England collapsed on the fourth morning. The destroyer was Sharma, who - learning from Broad - pitched the ball up and jagged it about at a decent pace. He surprised Pietersen with bounce, persuaded Bell to edge, and then bent one back up the slope to castle Trott as England lost four wickets in 32 balls, crashing to 62 for five. But when play resumed after lunch Dhoni unaccountably rested Sharma and started with Raina's gentle off-breaks. He was possibly concerned about the over-rate: on a warning from a previous Test, he faced a ban if the sluggishness continued (India had been eight overs short on the second day, but somehow managed to escape censure). Sharma finally returned ten overs after lunch, and almost immediately had Morgan caught at midwicket, but by then the balance had begun to shift again. Prior and Broad piled on the runs, and the lead escalated.
Prior was superb. A scorching cover-drive subdued Sharma and took the lead past 300, and an even more crucial blow followed when a ferocious sweep off Harbhajan smacked Gambhir, at short leg, flush on the left elbow. He went off heavily bruised, dropped down the order, and missed the next Test. By the closing stages of the onslaught there were seven men on the boundary, and Strauss's second declaration of the match came when Prior reached his sixth Test hundred - his third at Lord's - with another cover- drive, from his 120th delivery. India were left 458 to win in what became 125 overs. In 27 that evening they lost Mukund, chopping on again, but Dravid and Laxman looked entrenched.
The final morning saw huge queues around the ground. Many did not make it in, but the majority of those who did were Indian supporters and youngsters (under-16s were admitted free), which created an unusual atmosphere at cricket's headquarters - mainly of the party variety, although England were booed by a section of the crowd during their warm-up. Dravid soon departed, berating himself after edging a loose drive off Anderson, who was back to his late-swinging best after a subdued first innings. Laxman and the wounded Gambhir settled in for something of a seat-warming exercise: Tendulkar had been absent for much of the fourth day, nursing a viral infection and spending so much time off the field that he was not permitted to bat until around 12.30. Right on cue, Laxman short- armed a long-hop to midwicket, and Tendulkar received another huge ovation. He almost went straight back, Anderson's first ball snaking between bat and pad, before a flick to the square-leg boundary eased the tension slightly. But Gambhir fell in the next over, another left-handed lbw victim for Swann, and Tendulkar ground to a halt after lunch. He was stuck on 11 for 38 balls and 47 minutes, during which he was lbw to Broad but - to the bowler's evident exasperation - given not out by umpire Bowden (unchallenged, because it had been agreed not to use the DRS for lbws). Then, after Tendulkar broke the stalemate with a single to fine leg, the crowd gasped when Strauss dropped him at first slip off Anderson. It was not expensive: two balls later he was struck right in front again, this time playing no stroke, as Anderson zipped one back in. It was the only wicket of the afternoon session, but a vital one.
Raina and Dhoni had little trouble surviving until tea, although some of their partnership of 60 came against fill-in bowling as England awaited the new ball. They needed to break through with it, and did so shortly after the interval: with three slips and two gullies hovering, Dhoni feathered a catch behind off the impressive Tremlett, operating at high speed despite a hamstring twinge (Strauss later called him "the real deal"). Raina somehow survived a leg-before appeal off Broad which Hawk-Eye suggested would have demolished middle stump - Bowden apparently discerned an inside edge - but Harbhajan fell next over as the last four wickets tumbled in 29 balls.
England's win - with nearly 30 overs to spare - was their 35th in 100 Tests against India (who had won 19, with 46 drawn), but their 11th in 16 meetings at Lord's, where India have won only once. "It was an outstanding effort by the whole attack," said Strauss. "You do have to work hard for your wickets here, and it showed the value of persistent lines and lengths." Dhoni was merely philosophical: "Most of the things that could have gone wrong in the game went wrong."
Man of the Match: K. P. Pietersen. Attendance: 140,111.
Close of play: First day, England 127-2 (Trott 58, Pietersen 22); Second day, India 17-0 (Mukund 8, Gambhir 7); Third day, England 5-0 (Strauss 3, Cook 0); Fourth day, India 80-1 (Dravid 34, Laxman 32).