An innings that encapsulated the essence of an approach that has brought more than 10,000 runs in both forms of the game brought Rahul Dravid much relief and helped Gautam Gambhir set the first innings up quite nicely. Gambhir (179) and Dravid (136) were involved in a second-wicket stand so large that when it was terminated on 314, it dwarfed everything else that followed. India, who ended on 453, would have liked a crack at England but bad light brought the players off just after the scheduled close at 4.30 pm and by the rules they could not resume even as the ground was bathed in bright evening sunshine.
England have to make the play if they want the game to go forward, and although India will feel they stumbled in ending on 453, they know they've done enough to be able to force the right result if their bowlers fire.
Beginning the day with 65 under the belt, Dravid had returned to his old self — minimise risk, wait for the opportunity to score, make the bowler do all the hard work. The approach worked, with boundaries coming with increased regularity. Gambhir, who on 142 became the fourth Indian after Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman and Virender Sehwag to go past 1000 Test runs for the calendar year, found the going decidedly easy.
There were almost two games on view in the middle. The first was when Andrew Flintoff was in operation, steaming in and interspersing some furiously quick deliveries with consistent reverse swing. Batsmen were forced to stay on the back foot and play the ball late. Graeme Swann was the other bowler to make an impression.
But when any other bowler was in operation, the batsmen could call the shots, scoring at will and batting without serious fear of being dismissed. James Anderson, Monty Panesar and Stuart Broad together accounted for 257 runs off 81 overs, and did not breakthrough till Swann had accounted for both Gambhir and Dravid.
India then lost four wickets in the span of 19 runs, bringing England back into the game.
At the end of the day, India will rest easy. Flintoff and Swann have shown that there is joy to be had if bowlers are sensible and disciplined.