Few cricketers get to finish their careers on a high note. In Indian cricket, few are more deserving of the honour than Rahul Sharad Dravid. For one of the great servants of Indian cricket, the fifth one-day at Sophia Gardens proved to be a perfect finish.
The Karnataka batsman ended his one-day career with a typically elegant innings of 69 while helping his team post a challenging total against England on Friday. Walking back to a thundering applause from the full house was a deserving tribute to the unsung hero of limited overs cricket.
Always a team man, the quality came shining through even in his last outing. It was an emotional moment but Dravid didn't allow it to cloud his thoughts. All his energy was channeled on the mission at hand - to help India finish the tour with a win.
As if to assure Dravid that Indian cricket was in safe hands, young turk Virat Kohli hit a belligerent hundred to put the England bowlers under the pump for the first time in the series. Many expect the Delhi batsman to fill in the shoes of Dravid & Co, and it was like watching that transition live at Cardiff. In an entertaining partnership, the two added 170 runs off 160 balls for the third wicket to lay the foundation for India's highest total of the tour (including Tests). An inspired MS Dhoni marked the occasion with a 26-ball unbeaten 50 to take the total to 304 for six.
In his last innings, the Bangalore stalwart provided another proof that one-day cricket is not just about cross-batted shots and ugly heaves; quick runs can be scored with a silken touch too. The Wall built the innings brick by brick, focussing on working the ball around with deft touches and perfect placements.
The attacking Kolhi gradually outpaced his senior pro, but in quality of strokeplay Dravid had no peers. No one would agree more than Steven Finn. The shot Dravid hit off the pace bowler's last ball of the 41st over, simply took the breath away - the batsman making room to punch him through the off-side.
It was an important innings for Kohli's confidence. He had started with a half-century but then faded away, getting out a few times to the moving ball. On Friday, he was in control from ball one.