Gambhir century gives India the edge | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Gambhir century gives India the edge

Opener Gautam Gambhir hit his third century in four Tests to lead India to 179 for one on the truncated first day of the second and final Test against England today, reports Anand Vasu. Special Coverage

cricket Updated: Dec 19, 2008 22:26 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times

On an overcast wintry day, more characteristic of Christchurch rather than Chandigarh, Gautam Gambhir notched up yet another Test hundred and Rahul Dravid began to resemble his old self as India prolonged England's trials on this tour. With the play starting 20 minutes late, and being called off as many minutes early, only 72 overs were possible from which India collected 179 runs, losing the lone wicket of Virender Sehwag.

With conditions suggesting that a full day's play will be unlikely on any of the days to come, this Test could be one where the game moves forward rather slowly. Kevin Pietersen was forced to field when he would have preferred to bat but with three pacemen at his disposal — Stuart Broad came in for Steve Harmison — it wasn't the worst toss to lose. The ball did a bit early on, and when England's bowlers pitched it up, which was not nearly often enough, the batsmen were tested. One such well-pitched up Broad delivery invited the drive from Sehwag and the resultant outside edge was safely pouched.

At 6 for 1 the out of sorts Dravid walked out to the middle with Dhoni making no change to the batting order and backing his No. 3 player to come good. It was not the easiest of circumstances in which to try and change a run of poor form. But Dravid's case was helped along by Gambhir who combined solidity with clever rotation of strike. With the scoreboard ticking over, Dravid had the luxury of just bedding down and occupying the crease. Dravid had 7 from 45 balls when he pulled James Anderson with strength and confidence to pick up his first boundary in five innings.

As pace gave way to spin Dravid grew more decisive in his footwork and gradually the placement returned. When he worked Andrew Flintoff to midwicket for a couple off the 151st ball he faced Dravid had reached 50 for the first time in nine innings. There were no major celebrations, just a quiet raise of the bat to the dressing-room to acknowledge the cheers of team-mates. While Dravid has made more runs against better bowlers in more trying conditions, this half-century will mean a lot though his typically joyless expression did not betray that.

Gambhir, who had had quite enough of the strangulated pace of play skipped merrily down the pitch to launch Graeme Swann into the stands over long-off. On 70 Gambhir enjoyed a slice of luck when Paul Collingwood at slip only managed to get the tip of his fingers to a sharp chance. That aside it was a typically controlled innings as Gambhir brought up his third century of the year.

Gambhir and Dravid had extended their stand to 173, the highest for the second wicket on this ground when the players were waved off for poor light at 3.48pm. With no signs of the light improving the match officials gave up for the day at 4.10. Gambhir, who is on 106, needs just 36 more runs to bring up 1000 for the year. Dravid, on 65, won't be counting, he needs to spend as much time out in the middle and will take as many runs as he can get.