Enjoying his new role

G. VISWANATH

THE Nottingham Test ended with eight overs still left to bowl, but not before some brave deeds were enacted in the middle. After England's record total of 617 in 12 years, the Indian middle order showed its spine and the tail came up with a fine rearguard action.

N. SRIDHARAN

N. SRIDHARAN

The century-makers for India: Virender Sehwag in the first innings and Rahul Dravid in the second.

Notable among the batsmen who rose to the occasion were Rahul Dravid (115, 338m, 244b, 16x4), Sachin Tendulkar (92), Sourav Ganguly (99) and deubutant Parthiv Patel. These four batsmen made the fifth day's play gripping.

More than six months ago, at a different venue against another set of aggressive bowlers, Dravid and Deep Dasgupta had saved a Test match for India at the St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth.

Test rubber wins have eluded the Indian cricket team many a time recently, particularly in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. They lost at Harare and Colombo, and since then they have been pushed back to the wall, fighting hard to save big defeats. They failed at Lord's, but managed to save the bacon at Trent Bridge with 17-year-old Patel showing phenomenal temperament. Patel kept his cool as the Englishmen pressed for victory.

There were quite a few more fine performances by batsmen and bowlers, outstanding among whom were Michael Vaughan and Matthew Hoggard. From the Indian side, Virender Sehwag got nine out of ten for his application of mind to the opener's job after Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat. Sehwag scored a second century in only his seventh Test match and predictions came thick and fast that the Delhi dasher would embellish his career with many more centuries and spectacular deeds.

The Test match did not provide a result because rain and bad light affected play on three days. In spite of this England, as its captain Nasser Hussain said, "battled hard," but failed to finish it off on the last day of the match. "We lost 60 overs of the match to the elements, but I am not willing to believe that we could not force a win because of rain. We were not up to a scratch on the first day. We did not use the conditions well on the first day."

Summer has been great this time and the last thing cricket buffs expected were overcast conditions and rain at Nottingham. Rain and thunderstorms had played havoc for a week in the North of England and before the second Test at Trent Bridge. Even the Indians' match against Worcestershire in the West Midlands region was affected by rain.

N. SRIDHARAN

N. SRIDHARAN

Sourav Ganguly was unfortunate to miss a hundred by just one run in the second innings. The high-flying Sachin Tendulkar was brought down to earth by this beauty of a delivery from Michael Vaughan in the second knock.

Only 91 overs were bowled in the first two days of the Trent Bridge Test when England failed to wrest control after Sehwag's superb hundred. Many batsmen have not been lucky enough to score their second hundred after making one on their Test debuts. Sehwag quickly got over this hurdle. India crossed 350 in the first innings because Harbhajan Singh swung his bat against some loose stuff thrown at him by the England bowlers. Harbhajan's 54 ultimately became a valuable contribution.

The Indian bowling, especially its seam attack, turned out to be the weak link. Zaheer Khan bowled well in patches, but Nehra and Ajit Agarkar disappointed once again. At the international level there can be no excuse for not bowling to a length consistently.

First Vaughan and then the rest of the England batsmen scored runs at a brisk pace and broke records. Vaughan's 197 (356m, 258b, 23x4), his third straight Test match century this summer, was a class act.

Only Hussain and last man Steve Harmison (who made his debut with Robert Key) were dismissed for single digit scores. Mark Butcher made 53, Alec Stewart 87, Andrew Flintoff 33, Dominic Cork 31, Craig White 94 (245 m, 119b, 12x4, 1x6) and Matthew Hoggard 32. It was quite simply a remarkable effort as even the batsmen lower in the order whipped the Indian bowling.

England's formidable total left India 260 runs in arrears. When Hoggard removed Sehwag and Flintoff won an appeal for leg before against Wasim Jaffer, England must have expected to take a 2-0 lead.

Matthew Hoggard sends Wasim Jaffer packing in the first innings.-N. SRIDHARAN

But India's 'Big Three' made 306 between them. More significantly Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly kept the scoreboard ticking. Still, India might not have saved the Test had it not been for Patel and Zaheer Khan's ninth-wicket stand. Patel received lavish praise from both Ganguly and Hussain. "He showed a lot of character and good technique against the fast bowlers. I hope he gets better and better every match," said Ganguly

"First he looked like a 12-year-old. I think he had a remarkable game. He was impeccable in behaviour on and off the field. It's great for world cricket with young fast bowler Harmison bowling to Patel. I hope India stick with him," said Hussain.

India's second innings score was a very impressive 424 for eight, but what was important in this effort was the 28-run-stand raised by Patel and Zaheer Khan, who faced a 100 balls between them. Their extraordinary rearguard action was one of the talking points of the absorbing final day's play.

Hussain said he was "frustrated, a little tired and disappointed." But he paid tribute to the wonderful batting and bowling of 'Man of the Match' Vaughan, and Flintoff's enthusiasm to play for England in spite of groin trouble. "We are being unprofessional. They don't do this in other sports," said Hussain about Flintoff's case.

Ganguly too, had reason to be frustrated. He came so near to his ninth Test century, but Harmison got the better of him. "I am disappointed, but I am also happy that everybody contributed to the team." This was the second time that Ganguly had been dismissed for 99, the first occasion being in the second Test at Nagpur in November '97. Then last year at Kandy, he was stranded on 98.

It was once again India's batting that saved it the blushes. India's inability to bowl consistently to a good line and length enabled England to amass 617. "We have to get our bowling discipline right. We have to improve overall in our cricket. Harbhajan Singh had an ordinary match. He is world class bowler and I am sure he would be a different bowler at Leeds," said Ganguly.

The scores : India 357 (V. Sehwag 106, S. Tendulkar 34, S. Ganguly 68, A. Agarkar 34, Harbhajan Singh 54, Hoggard 4-105, Harmison 3-57) and 424-8 decl. (R. Dravid 115, S. Tendulkar 92, S. Ganguly 99, A. Agarkar 32) drew with England 617 (M. Vaughan 197, M. Butcher 53, A. Stewart 87, A. Flintoff 33, C. White 94 n.o., D. Cork 31, M. Hoggard 32, Zaheer Khan 3-110, Harbhajan 3-175).

MICHAEL PAUL VAUGHAN has been like a whiff of fresh air to England's batting. An opening batsman who turns out for Yorkshire, he is not truly of Yorkshire stock, for he was born in Manchester, Lancashire, on October 29, 1974. Vaughan's approach represents a fine mix of the styles of batting that one saw in Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton. By scoring three straight Test match centuries, Vaughan has generated debates about his potential to become an England great.

Opening the innings for England against Sri Lanka at Old Trafford on May 20, Vaughan made 115, following his 64 in the first innings. More than two months later, at Lord's in the first of the four Test matches against India, he made a superb 100, this time following a duck in the first innings.

Vaughan's luck changed for the better in the first innings of the Nottingham Test at Trent Bridge. Reprieved off a difficult chance at 31 (the leg side deflection off Harbhajan Singh not sticking in the gloves of debutant wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel), Vaughan went on to make a career-high 197 that prompted experts to place him alongside former England greats such as Herbert Sutcliffe, C. B. Fry and Geoffrey Boycott.

Vaughan did not get many opportunities to push or drive the ball straight down the ground, but many times he stroked the ball sweetly in front of the wicket or square on both sides of the pitch. It was enthralling stuff all the way until he nicked an outswinger from Ajit Agarkar.

N. SRIDHARAN

Vaughan has been a consistent batsman for England since he made his debut against South Africa at the Wanderers, Johannesburg, on November 25, 1999. He made 33 before getting out to a regulation caught behind dismissal off Shaun Pollock. It was a hard tour against the Hansie Cronje-led South African side, in a series in which England won the last Test at Centurion with both the captains, Cronje and Nasser Hussain, forfeiting an innings to get a result in a rain-affected match.

In his debut series he made 33, 5, 21, 29, 42, 5 and 69, but it was not before the second Test against Pakistan at Manchester last summer that he made his first three-figure knock, reaching 120 before Waqar Younis had him caught at the wicket by Rashid Latif.

Injuries made him sit out of the Ashes series, but he came back strongly in the series against India and New Zealand, both away from home.

That he was in form this summer was clearly evident in his scores of 64, 115, 46, 36 and 24 against Sri Lanka. He took his batting levels to new heights, making an exact 100 in the second innings of the Lord's Test against India. He deserved a double century at Nottingham, but that eluded him by three runs.

Vaughan has not always opened the innings for England. With left-hander Mark Butcher feeling more comfortable at No. 3, England chose Vaughan as the opening partner to the successful Marcus Trescothick.

Before the start of the Lord's Test, Vaughan had made 675 runs in the first innings and 420 in the second, an aggregate of 1,095 runs in 32 innings from 19 Tests at an average of 35 plus. He has increased that tally by 297 runs against India and lifted his average by a few points.

Vaughan has not scored a century on foreign soil, but then he is very much a beginner in Test cricket and has played only 10 Tests abroad in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand. England's experts say that the onus will be on the likes of Vaughan and Trescothick to change the fortunes of England in the Ashes series in Australia. An England cricketer values his performance in the Ashes. It cannot be any different with Vaughan, who may find his tossed up off-spinners too working well in Australia.