Heroic Dravid delays England charge towards whitewash

- carries bat throughout innings

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.

Rahul Dravid defiantly carried his bat through India’s first innings yesterday.

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.

SWEETLY TIMED

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.

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