Sachin shines when rain relents

G. VISWANATH

INDIA'S preparation for the second Test match was hampered by rain that lashed the north of England for nearly a week. Rain did not spare the heart of England, which is where Worcestershire in West Midlands is. A poor pitch at Rose Bowl, Southampton, was one of the reasons for India's inadequate preparation for the Lord's Test. Here it was rain that contributed to India's misery with not a ball being bowled in the first two days of the four-day match at New Road. The rules were revised to enable India to play a maximum of 105 overs on the third day. There was sunshine and conditions were favourable for one full day, before the fourth day's play, on which Worcestershire was given an opportunity to bat, was once again affected by rain. The match came to a halt after India had bowled a little more than 54 overs.

N. SRIDHARAN

N. SRIDHARAN

Sachin Tendulkar cut loose in the two-hour session between tea and stumps on the third day. He scored 105 of his 169 runs in this session.

Rahul Dravid was consistent as ever and remained unbeaten on 53.

After the 170-run defeat in the first Test at Lord's, India had picked a batting side that was without Venkat Sai Laxman, and three bowlers regarded as certainties for the second Test at Nottingham. "The idea was to put it all together and to get a Test match like team in the middle," said coach John Wright. But to India's misfortune, rain intervened. One Indian who grabbed the opportunity was Sachin Tendulkar. He had been under fire after his failure in the Lord's Test. England's captain Nasser Hussain, who had managed to keep Tendulkar under control in India, came up with another idea to deal with him. Tendulkar, who was prepared for any new tactics Hussain was to employ, survived for more than 1-1/2 hours before driving at a wide ball and gifting his wicket to Craig White in the first innings of the Lord's Test. At New Road, Tendulkar played himself in and made a brilliant 169 (304m, 246b, 30x4), his second highest score in England. He had made 177 in the first innings of the Nottingham Test six years ago. He could have easily fallen a hat-trick victim to off-spinner Gareth Batty. This was the closest he came to being dismissed in the early part of his innings that stretched a little over five hours. The conditions and accurate spells by left-arm seamer Alamgir Sheriar and Matt Mason, a Western Australian who had opted to play for England, made things difficult for Tendulkar. He was watchful and cut out all the risks. Once he had got his eye in, he collared the bowling, hitting as many as 21 fours in the two-hour session between tea and stumps on the third day. Twice, Sunil Gavaskar had authored pieces in The Daily Telegraph that perhaps raised the hackles of Tendulkar. Since he reacted to comments made about his performance in the Lord's Test, it meant that he kept himself abreast of the happenings around him. "People have over-reacted after what happened at Lord's. I know what I am doing," said Tendulkar after a strokeful and attractive century. There were the impeccable straight drives that stood out from the rest. "I would like to stand at first slip and see him bat. The young players in the team are also talking about him in the dressing room," said Worcestershire captain Graeme Hick on the first day. The fielding team's response, when Tendulkar reached his century, and while departing after making 169 was understandable. They had all seen a superb innings by the little champion. He had 30 fours in all, 21 of them hit after tea when he progressed from 64 to 169. This was the first time he had hit a century in a single session in a first class match. Jaffer (43) and Virender Sehwag (42) whose positions as openers are not threatened, made some runs too, before they fell in quick succession to Batty. A fine catch by the tall Mason, running backwards from mid-on and holding the ball over his shoulder to dismiss Sehwag, was the fielding highlight of the first session. Jaffer who had crossed over edged to 'keeper James Pipe. Batty's tail was up and he almost had Tendulkar. But after the ball had missed the outside edge of Tendulkar's bat and the off stump, he also saw India's top batsman in full form.

N. SRIDHARAN

N. SRIDHARAN

Left-arm seamer Alamgir Sheriar made full use of the conditions and claimed four Indian wickets. Here he has Sanjay Bangar caught by wicketkeeper D. J. Pipe.

Worcestershire opener Stephen Peters compiled a sparkling half-century with eight fours and a six.

The Indian captain, Sourav Ganguly, who was lucky not to be given out off the first ball, struggled to find his touch and perished under pressure. Rahul Dravid made another half century before Ganguly declared the innings on the morning of the fourth day.

Harbhajan Singh gets the all-important wicket of Graeme Hick, leg before.-N. SRIDHARAN

Worcestershire openers Stephen Peters (50, 8x4, 1x6) and Anuragh Singh (46, 8x4) made an encouraging start against the two Indian seamers, Ashish Nehra (15-2-69-2) and Ajit Agarkar (13-5-29-1). The left-arm seamer was struggling to find his rhythm going. They bowled their spells in the post-lunch session after the first wicket stand had realised 84 runs. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, looking forward to a long bowling spell, made the most of the opportunity and also got the important wicket of Hick. Before thundershowers hit New Road, Worcestershire recovered from 147 for four to 200 for six with Batty remaining unbeaten on 30.

The scores: India (first innings): 417 for eight declared (Wasim Jaffer 43, Virender Sehwag 42, Sachin Tendulkar 169, Rahul Dravid 53 not out, Harbhajan Singh 32 not out, A. Sheriyar four for 109) drew with Worcestershire (first innings): 200 for six (S. D. Peters 50, A. Singh 46, G. A. Hick 27, G. J. Batty 30 not out).