Sussex's great escape

Robin Martin-Jenkins (left) of Sussex is congratulated by India’s Anil Kumble after the match ended in a draw, in Hove, England.-AP Robin Martin-Jenkins (left) of Sussex is congratulated by India’s Anil Kumble after the match ended in a draw, in Hove, England.

In all 17 wickets fell on the last day, eight of them belonging to India.

India was denied victory in the opening match of its England tour as county champion Sussex saw its last-wicket pair hold out for a draw on the fourth and final day in Hove.

Sussex, set 273 to win, finished on 190 for nine.

Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble took three for 57 but Robin Martin-Jenkins, with 45 not out, and last man Jason Lewry, who survived 24 balls while making an unbeaten eight, hung on to avoid defeat.

In all 17 wickets fell on the last day, eight of them belonging to India. Earlier having been 120 for eight, India saw No. 10 Rudra Pratap Singh, primarily a left-arm quick, score 41 not out.

Rudra Pratap put on 64 for the ninth wicket with captain Rahul Dravid, who declared with India on 184 for eight.

Earlier on day three, India failed to deliver the killer punch as Sussex put up a strong first innings total and then picked two early wickets to push India on the back foot.

Helped by a counter-attacking century by wicketkeeper-batsman Andy Hodd, Sussex witnessed a turn around in batting and posted 300 for six declared on a rain-curtailed third day.

Hodd made an unbeaten 106 and his late surge helped the host cut the deficit to 88 runs before the declaration came, a situation that looked unlikely after the side was reduced to 144 for five.

India, batting first, made 388 for seven declared in the first innings. Skipper Rahul Dravid, who was 57 not out on the first day, did not come out to bat on the second day. Resuming at 281 for three, the Indians continued to feast on Sussex bowling on a wicket that had nothing much to offer.

Yuvraj Singh made the most of a bright, sunny day, batting rather cautiously.

Laxman, who started the second day on 37 not out, reached his half-century and shared another fruitful stand with Yuvraj who was given a testing time by off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq.

Yuvraj was rewarded for all his pluck. He opened up to steer Robin Martin-Jenkins to the fence and followed it up with another glorious off-drive off Saqlain.

Laxman kept the few hundred Indian fans entertained with some magnificent shots on either side of the wicket.

Yuvraj finally lost his battle with the Sussex spinners when he fell to off-spinner Ollie Rayner in the first over after lunch as he jumped out to drive, missed, and was easily stumped.

Two overs later, Rayner claimed his second wicket when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was beaten by the turn and trapped in front for five.

With Laxman moving into the 90s with a delightful pull off Rayner, India lost Anil Kumble to Saqlain Mushtaq who also added the Hyderabad batsman to his list of victims.

Needing just five runs for his hundred, Laxman was done in by a ’doosra’ from Saqlain that took the shoulder of his bat and travelled to slip.

On the first day, Gautam Gambhir led the way with 81 and Karthik made 76. Karthik and Gambhir put on 129 for the second wicket following the early loss of Wasim Jaffer.

Karthik became Saqlain Mushtaq’s maiden first-class wicket for Sussex.

The former Pakistan off-spinner bowled Karthik to end a 177-ball innings that featured 10 fours.

Gambhir’s patient display ended when he was caught and bowled by Sussex’s stand-in skipper Michael Yardy, who arrived late after being released from the England squad for the third one-day international against West Indies earlier in the day.

THE SCORES

India 388 for seven decl. (V. V. S. Laxman 95, G. Gambhir 81, D. Karthik 76, R. Dravid 57 retired hurt, Saqlain Mushtaq three for 71) and 184 for eight decl. drew with Sussex 300 for six decl. (A. Hodd 106 not out, M. Yardy 53, A. Kumble three for 66) and 190 for nine (R. Montgomerie 59, A. Kumble three for 57).