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Gambhir hits form

Gautam Gambhir could not have timed his century better than this.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2006 20:15 IST

Gautam Gambhir could not have timed his century better than this and his reaction on reaching the landmark -- not celebrating his hundred -- spoke volumes about his state of mind after being dropped from the Test squad.

The Board President’s XI, resuming from an overnight score of 93 for one, toyed with the English attack on the second day of the threeday match, declaring at 342 for eight in reply to England XI’s first innings score of 238. The visitors, at stumps, were 10 for one having lost opener Andrew Strauss, and trail the hosts by 104 runs.

Skipper Marcus Trescothick and nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard were at the crease at the close of day’s play. But the most defining moment came when Gambhir, a day after he was dropped from the squad for the first Test against England, played a cut to Monty Panesar through the point and completed two runs to reach the three-figure mark, a little about an hour after lunch.

There were loud cheers from the dressing room, the sparse crowd reacted merrily but Gambhir just looked up at the sky and seemed to say a few words to himself and then raised his left hand towards the dressing room for such a brief time that it could have been missed had anyone blinked.

There was no more acknowledgement of the cheers; Gambhir had made a point to the selectors and he left it at that. After scoring eight more runs, he tried to off-drive a slower one from Flintoff pitched up and the ball carried uppishly to the fielder at point and Andrew Strauss took the catch.

The crowd and the dressing room once again applauded the batsman’s effort but Gambhir just walked back to the pavilion without even a hint of smile on his face.

On the other hand, one of the latest entrants into the Indian Test squad, Suresh Raina, proved the selectors right with his dogged effort that fetched him a half-century.

However, he fell trying to take on left-arm spinner Monty Panesar for a big one and was caught by Ian Blackwell at mid-off.

The English batting, in their second innings looked shaky, and they seemed tired after a long day in the heat as a edgy Strauss fell to Munaf Patel’s beauty of a delivery that forced him to play at it. The ball took the outer edge and carried on to the slips.

Munaf once again looked in great form and so far has been the most dangerous bowler of the lot in this match.

But it was largely a forgettable day for the Englishmen on the field, as they toiled hard in the heat. The Indian batsmen played sensibly to see off the initial hour of play without much hiccups. The English bowlers came clean and hard at them. Hoggard and Harmison in particular found their own brand of bowling going. Hoggard managed to find his swing and Harmison got his bounce and pace right. But Gambhir and Dheeraj Jadhav were content to let the ball go.

However, once Gambhir got his eye in and Raina, who came in at the fall of Jadhav, joined in they found the going relatively easier. The Delhi opener was severe on loose deliveries. He made the English bowlers look ordinary in the mid session of the day.

He did, however, play a couple of shots in the air and almost got out on these occasions but these were tough chances and Gambhir survived to reach his hundred.

After both Raina and Gambhir were dismissed, the English bowlers sensed their opportunity and went for the kill.

Harmison and Flinotff suddenly looked menacing and they ran through the middle order, getting skipper Y Venugopal Rao and S Badrinath out and then taking a swipe at the lower middle order. Ramesh Powar and VRV Singh provided a brief spell of entertainment.