Broad makes timely return to form
Stuart Broad led the charge as England cranked up the pressure on day three in the first npower Test at Lord’s despite a typically defiant century from veteran India batsman Rahul Dravid.
The attention surrounded Sachin Tendulkar – and, more specifically, his effort to reach a 100th international hundred – prior to the third day of the historic 2,000th Test.
But he, much like his team-mates, with the exception of Dravid, was powerless to stop an excellent England bowling performance as the tourists were dismissed for 286, 188 runs adrift of England’s first-innings 474 for eight declared.
That India avoided the follow-on score of 275 was down almost entirely to their number three who, despite being dropped on 42, batted beautifully in scoring an unbeaten 103.
Often in the shadow of the Little Master, Dravid has also forged out a career that ranks him among the all-time greats.
His class was evident more than ever today and, while the fanfare surrounded Tendulkar – who received standing ovations on his walks to and from the middle – Dravid went about his business unassumingly.
He did so in the face of a Broad-inspired England, with the right-arm seamer silencing his critics by claiming 4-37.
Bowling a noticeably fuller length, the Nottinghamshire man was irresistible all day and a fourth Test five-wicket haul would have been richly deserved.
Chris Tremlett was also impressive in taking 3-80 and, while James Anderson was off-colour, Graeme Swann bowled tidily and got the wicket of Suresh Raina.
In their second innings, the hosts reached five without loss – a lead of 193 – and will be keen to kick on tomorrow as they aim to take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
Opening bowlers Anderson and Tremlett were on the money immediately, illustrated by it taking 19 balls for the day’s first run, courtesy of a drop into the off side by Abinhav Mukund.
Abhinav, playing in place of the injured Virender Sehwag, began to look increasingly at ease thereafter although he nearly departed lbw to Broad.
That chance seemed to spur on England’s first-change bowler, with him accounting for Gautum Gambhir with a beautiful inswinger in his next set of six.
Broad did not have to wait long to get another, removing Abhinav – who inside edged an outswinger on to the stumps – for 49.
That prompted a roar that paled in comparison to the one moments later when Tendulkar entered the fray, although the first delivery he faced was somewhat of an anti-climax – Broad sending it down the leg side for four byes.
It was not long before he was off the mark and, having nearly chopped on to Tremlett, he showed the first real sign of his class with a gorgeous back-foot punch to the cover boundary.
England’s gigantic seamer nearly had the batsman in his next over, though, thrice beating the edge.
Tendulkar started well after lunch, with three quick boundaries, but Dravid – unwilling to play second fiddle – hit out with some equally impressive shots.
Yet there were still moments of strife for Tendulkar and, when Broad replaced Tremlett, he was soon heading back to the pavilion for 34.
Another excellent piece of bowling from the seamer saw him draw Tendulkar into a drive but he could only edge to second slip, where Swann took a wonderful low catch.
England were understandably buoyed, something their energy illustrated by Swann having Dravid in some trouble in his next over.
However, the next set of six – bowled by Broad – proved disappointing as VVS Laxman, on nought, and Dravid were dropped in the slips by Andrew Strauss and Swann respectively.
Dravid brought up his fifty soon after courtesy of a glorious flick through midwicket, which dissected the field perfectly.
Broad continued to probe with little reward but was replaced by Tremlett following an impressive spell of 1-3 from his six overs.
That change reaped an instant result for England as Laxman’s stay was ended when he inexplicably flicked a bouncer to Jonathan Trott at deep backward square-leg.
Swann was in on the act soon after, trapping Raina in front from what was his first delivery at a left-hander in the Test.
Following a breathless afternoon session, the game entered a lull after tea as England dried up the runs with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni playing the kind of stodgy manner that belies his aggressive reputation.
The war of attrition halted as Dravid drove Trott through the covers for four, but he was quickly back into his shell.
The hosts, meanwhile, seemed happy to sit back and wait for the new ball rather than attack overly.
The fifty partnership was brought up prior to that, though – the 137 balls it spanned proving largely uneventful.
It was no surprise, therefore, that Strauss opted to take the new ball immediately.
That yielded almost instant results as Tremlett – in the second over of his spell – found Dhoni’s edge, Swann taking an excellent catch at second slip to end the skipper’s 103-ball stay.
And, after roughing Harbhajan Singh up with a no-ball next up, he had another as the tailender nicked off, Prior doing the rest.
Praveen Kumar did not seem willing to hang around, launching into several ambitious strokes – albeit riding his luck occasionally.
But, having struck a couple of boundaries and helped India past the follow-on mark, he departed for 17 when a Broad bouncer took the glove and Strauss took the catch.
Dravid remained, though, and brought up his 33rd Test century – and first at the home of cricket – from 202 balls courtesy of two through midwicket.
Anderson showed signs of rediscovering his best form by bowling Zaheer Khan with a beauty before having Ishant Sharma caught behind to wrap things up.
That left England’s openers with a tricky 20-minute period to bat, but Strauss and Alastair Cook safely negotiated the five overs.