LONDON, (Reuters) – Another monumental performance from Rahul Dravid on the fourth day of the fourth test at the Oval yesterday delayed England’s progress towards a series whitewash over India.
Dravid became the third Indian batsman to carry his bat in a test with an unbeaten 146 compiled in six hours 19 minutes in his team’s 300 all out in reply to England’s 591 for six declared.
He was soon back in the middle after England enforced the follow-on and frustrated the hosts for a further 55 minutes before departing caught for 13.
Despite Dravid’s heroics, England still need only seven wickets to win the series 4-0 on today’s final day after India ended on for 129 for three, still trailing by 162. Sachin Tendulkar, who received another standing ovation in what may his last test innings in England, was unbeaten on 35.
Dravid scored 103 not out in the first test at Lord’s and 117 in the second at Trent Bridge and is the only Indian to reach three figures in a miserable series for the visitors.
A consummate team man who kept wicket briefly at Lord’s when his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to bowl, Dravid opened the batting in Nottingham and again at the Oval in place of Gautam Gambhir who was injured on both occasions.
Yesterday he completed his 35th test century to move ahead of his boyhood hero Sunil Gavaskar and West Indian Brian Lara in the all-time list behind Tendulkar (51), South Africa’s Jacques Kallis (40) and Australian Ricky Ponting (39).
He emulated Gavaskar and Virender Sehwag by batting throughout an innings and became the first man to face 30,000 test deliveries.
Dravid told a news conference he had been satisfied with his form throughout the series.
“The bowling attack has been very good, the ball has swung and they have swung it at pace and the wickets have been challenging as well,” he said. “They have been pretty spicy wickets.
“Obviously from a team perspective the series has been unsatisfactory for us. It’s not a nice feeling. They were superior to us.”
Dravid’s heroics at least guaranteed a competitive day’s cricket in a one-sided series during which England took over the world’s number one ranking from India.
Resuming on 57, he could have been run out four runs later after a mixup with Dhoni. Otherwise his footwork and concentration were impeccable as off-spinner Graeme Swann, who took three cheap wickets on Saturday evening, toiled in vain from the Vauxhall end.
Dravid moved through the 90s with three sweetly timed boundaries in a Swann over and reached his hundred with a late cut for two off Tim Bresnan.
He had lost Dhoni caught behind by Matt Prior off James Anderson for a sketchy 17 but found a useful partner in leg-spinner Amit Mishra who contributed 43, including a six off the last ball before lunch from Swann, to a seventh-wicket partnership of 87.
The tail, including Gambhir who scored 10 batting at nine, contributed little but India’s final total was still the only time they have reached 300 in the series.
Sehwag, who had failed to last longer than the first over in his three previous innings in the series, edged Anderson’s first ball past his off stump to the boundary for four. He thumped a further boundary off the sixth delivery.
Dravid was given out caught at short-leg by Alastair Cook off Swann for seven by umpire Rod Tucker and immediately called for a review which showed he had not made contact.
He had scored one more run when the same umpire signalled byes although television replays indicated Dravid had got an edge which eluded Prior.
Five runs later there was no reprieve when Dravid pushed forward again to Swann and Cook claimed the catch after the ball appeared to go from bat to pad. Tucker this time said not out but the decision was reversed on review.
“I thought I got a feather on it,” Dravid told reporters.
Sehwag departed for 33, bowled through the gap by Swann, and Vangipurappu Laxman was given a life after he had scored 20 when Andrew Strauss dropped a low chance to his right hand at first slip off Anderson.
He scored only four more runs when Anderson ripped his off-stump out of the ground with a splendid delivery which left the batsman stranded.