A little after Rahul Dravid reached his 34th test hundred on the second day of the India-England test match at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, Alan Wilkins expressed his gentle displeasure to fellow commentator Ravi Shastri about the nickname 'Wall' given to the Indian batsman. "A wall can be brought down", he argued - thereby implying that Rahul Dravid can't be.
And yet, if you were to be in India these days, you would have thought that it is neither victory in the series nor the safeguarding of the No. 1 Test team status, but the 100th international century by Sachin Tendulkar is all that matters to Indians. Unfortunately, it may well be true in some sections of the so-called cricket-literate nation.
But Rahul Dravid, just as VVS Laxman, is used to being in the shadow of Tendulkar. In fact, he would rather not have any other way; just as India would rather not have any other man at the crease when the chips are down, than the 'Wall' himself. (Sorry Alan, but I guess it's tad too late in the day to change the nickname. If you wish, he is known as 'Jammy' within the team.)
After yesterday's late counter-attack by Stuart Broad with the bat and the first-ball wicket of Abhinav Mukund by James Anderson, the test match seemed evenly poised at stumps last evening. However, as has happened many a times in the last decade, Laxman and Dravid the steadied the ship and started taking the game away from England this morning - till Laxman perished behind the stumps on a Bresnan beauty.
But while the crowd favourite Sachin came and went early, along with Suresh Raina, Dravid stayed well at the crease and went ahead to score yet another important century for the team.
And yet, the highlight of the day was to come later in the day. In a maniacal period of about 20 minutes, India lost 5 wickets for mere 8 runs. After getting Yuvraj Singh caught behind in the 85th over of the Indian innings, England's man of the moment Stuart Broad wrecked havoc with a deserving-yet-dubious (owing to Harbhajan being wrongly given out) hat-trick in the 88th over. After bowling two dots, Broad got Indian skipper MS Dhoni caught in the slips on the 3rd ball, caught Harbhajan Singh LBW on the 4rth ball and bowled Praveen Kumar on the 5th, before bringing some sanity to the proceedings with a dot ball.
It was the kind of over that could potentially change the complexion of the whole test match. It certainly changed Dravid's composure, as in the very next over, he got caught at the third man of Bresnan, while trying to do a Sehwag while upper-cutting a rather innocuous ball. He made 117, typically fighting runs.
A little later, Broad completed his demolition job by getting Ishant Sharma caught by Ian Bell. Broad finished the day with scintillating figures of 6 for 46! Add to that the fact that he was the top scorer with the bat too. Yesterday, he had remarked that he felt good answering the critics. After today, he might have to search hard for critics.
To put things into perspective, this was not only Broad's personal best bowling figures and the 10th best ever by an English bowler against India, but also the first hat-trick against India by an English bowler! The most recent performance of such impact by and English bowler against India was 21 years, by Ian Botham in 1980. Now that the great all-rounder's protégé Andrew Flintoff has retired, should England already consider Stuart Broad the next Ian Botham? Hmmm!
On the other side of the crease, after looking like building a substantial lead during the 128-run partnership between Dravid and Yuvraj, India ended with just 288, enjoying a lead of 67 runs. However, it is a low-scoring match and the pitch and conditions are still favouring swing bowlers. So, 67-run lead might prove to be a handy one - especially in the light of the fact that injured Jonnathan Trott not likely to bat. He had injured his shoulder while trying to stop a ball today.
Sure enough, the lead started looking handy almost immediately after the England 2nd innings began. Alistair Cook continued his extraordinarily poor run at the crease, as he got out on 5, caught by Yuvraj at point on an Ishant Sharma ball, which he was trying to play towards mid-wicket!
When the frantic day finally ended, Alistair Cook and Ian Bell were at the crease, with England still 43 runs behind India.
It is going to be difficult to wait till tomorrow!
Score at Stumps on the 2nd Day:
England 1st Innings: 221 all out (Stuart Broad 64, Andrew Strauss 32; Praveen Kumar 3/45, Ishant Sharma 3/66, S Sreesanth 3/77)
India 1st Innings: 288 (Rahul Dravid 150, Yuvraj Singh 62, VVS Laxman 54; Stuart Broad 6/46, Tim Bresnan 2/48)
England 2nd Innings: 24/1 (Andrew Strauss 6*, Ian Bell 9*; Ishant Sharma 1/9)
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