England enjoyed their best day of the first Test here thanks to a remarkably mature bowling performance from their Yorkshire off-spinner, Richard Dawson. A year ago Dawson was sharing a house and high jinks with 18 other lads in his final year at Exeter University. Yesterday, he graduated out on the pitch, snaffling four wickets, a haul that helped dismiss India for 469.
While it would be easy to sneer at the 231-run deficit England conceded over the first innings, though Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher had reduced that lead to 197 by the close, the capacity for yesterday to go samosa-shaped was huge. With Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid resuming with scores on the board and the prolific Vangipurappu Laxman still to come, England could easily have been facing a deficit nearer the 400-mark.
Fortunately for Nasser Hussain, who once again captained with steely resolve, it did not happen, for which most of the credit must go to Dawson and the other bowlers, though not the fielders. On another day of warm sunshine and blue skies, their efforts were devalued after two more chances went begging. As that makes five for the innings, four of them straightforward, it is a handicap even Australia would find difficult to make good.
One of the chances came when India's captain, Sourav Ganguly, charged at Dawson in an attempt to launch him into a raucous crowd. On 41 at the time, the left-hander missed the ball altogether, presenting James Foster with a simple chance to stump him.
Unhappily for Foster, the chance was fluffed, the wicketkeeper's second howler of the match, and Ganguly was able to regain his ground. Later, Dawson suffered again, this time after Graham Thorpe dropped Sanjay Bangar at extra cover off a leading edge, a miss Dawson eventually made good himself, when he caught the all-rounder's skied slog off his own bowling.
Like Foster, England's other debutant in this match, the 21-year old Dawson's rise from talented undergraduate to England player has been meteoric. Making one's county and Test debut in the same season is not something that happens frequently. In fact, it has not occurred since the 1920/21 season, when another Yorkshireman, Abe Waddington, played against Australia.
Dawson, who graduated in Sports Science, has something of the young Atherton about him. According to England's assistant coach, Graham Dilley, he is quietly determined, but enjoys a good laugh. Other impressions so far are that he is a bit of a clever clogs with a mind to be contrary in his dealings with the press. Neither are capital offences, though, and it should remembered that he is both young and from Doncaster.
Taking 4 for 134, as Dawson did in his first bowl at Test level, rarely wins you matches. But if his bowling action can and will be improved to allow him to get more rotation on the ball without sacrificing accuracy, his mental approach could not be faulted.
"The biggest plus was definitely his temperament," said Dilley. "Bowling to world-class players on a pitch not overly helping him showed he has a future in the game at this level. Someone with that temperament can go on."
If Dawson bagged the wickets, along with Matthew Hoggard who took 3 for 98, it was perhaps Andrew Flintoff who deserved them most after 34 overs of bowling that was fast, hostile and accurate.
The change in Flintoff from the man who returned home from Pakistan a year ago with his bowling future in tatters, has been remarkable and it was one of cricket's inexplicable mysteries – though two dropped catches did not help – that he remained wicketless.
With his sleeves rolled in the style of a farmhand preparing for the harvest, Flintoff was able to muster enough discipline to allow Hussain to adopt a field that had just one man on the leg side. In fact, he kept Tendulkar from scoring a single run for 22 balls, a middling victory in itself after Dravid became the day's first wicket after falling lbw to James Ormond, the burly bowler's first wicket of the tour.
Tendulkar, who tends to treat balls on their merits, was respectful of Flintoff. Along with Hussain's strangling off-side field, it forced Tendulkar to review his scoring options, which had largely dried up. But if Flintoff deserved to reap the benefits it was Hoggard who won the prize as the little master nibbled at an outswinger.
His lack of success did not prevent Flintoff from relishing his role as the team's enforcer and there was a spicy interlude between him and Ganguly, a team-mate of Flintoff's at Lancashire the season before last.
From the barrage of bouncers and the occasional badinage that followed, you sensed young "Freddie" does not hold Ganguly in high regard, and it was left to Hussain, with an arm round the shoulder, and umpire Steve Bucknor, with a quick wag of the finger, to step in just before lunch to prevent the situation from escalating.
The match referee, Denis Lindsay, confirmed he had seen nothing untoward in the day's play, even going as far as to insist that cricket thrives on the odd personality clash.
"You can't have a game of cricket and not have the odd chirp," said Lindsay. "As long as it's nothing personal and there is no animosity a few words can be tolerated. We're not looking for a faceless game."
Lindsay, who kept wicket for South Africa in the 1960s, was less convinced about the lights that Butcher and Trescothick had to bat under for the last few overs. "They are fine providing they were not needed over a long period and did not put one team at a disadvantage," he said.
The first time either batsman has faced a red, as opposed to white ball, under lights, the pair's plight was compounded by the fact that twilight – which arrives here soon after 4.30pm – has always been the time when floodlights are least effective.
After a period of looking untroubled, both batsmen suddenly made the pitch and bowling look unplayable and they looked relieved when stumps were finally drawn for the day.
Third day, India won toss
ENGLAND – First Innings 238 (N Hussain 85, M E Trescothick 66; Harbhajan Singh 5-51).
INDIA – First Innings
(Overnight: 262 for 3)
R S Dravid lbw b Ormond 86
S R Tendulkar c Foster b Hoggard 88
*S C Ganguly c Thorpe b Hoggard 47
V V S Laxman c Hussain b Dawson 28
S B Bangar c and b Dawson 36
Harbhajan Singh lbw b Dawson 1
I R Siddiqui b Hoggard 24
T Yohannan not out 2
Extras (lb12, w2, nb4) 18
Total (713 min, 169 overs) 469
Fall (cont): 3-212 (Dasgupta), 4-290 (Dravid), 5-370 (Tendulkar), 6-378 (Ganguly), 7-430 (Laxman), 8-436 (Harbhajan Singh), 9-449 (Bangar).
Bowling: Hoggard 32-9-98-3 (nb1) (11-5-21--0, 4-1-9-0, 4-1-18-0, 5-0-27-0, 7-2-19-2, 1-0-4-1); Ormond 28-8-70-1 (nb1) (3-0-9-0, 6-4-4-0, 8-2-21-0, 11-2-36-1); Butcher 7-1-19-1 (w2) (2-0-3-1, 5-1-16-0); Flintoff 34-11-80-0 (5-2-10-0, 4-1-9-0, 5-0-13-0, 5-1-17-0, 7-3-14-0, 8-4-17-0); White 25-8-56-1 (nb2) (5-2-7-0, 5-1-9-0, 5-1-19-1, 4-1-14-0, 6-3-7-0); Dawson 43-6-134-4 (13-3-37-1, 2-0-13-0, 5-1-9-0, 23-2-75-3).
Progress: Third day: 300 in 465 min, 110.1 overs. 350 in 536 min, 124.2 overs. Lunch: 353-4 (Tendulkar 77, Ganguly 36) 125 overs. 400: 628 min, 147.1 overs. Tea: 419-6 (Laxman 19, Bangar 24) 156 overs. 450: 702 min, 166.3 overs. Innings closed: 3.24pm.
Dravid 50: 170 min, 126 balls, 5 fours.
Tendulkar 50: 102 min, 77 balls, 8 fours.
ENGLAND – Second Innings
M A Butcher not out 11
M E Trescothick not out 16
Extras (b5, lb1, w1) 7
Total (for 0, 85 min, 20 overs) 34
To bat: ÝN Hussain, G P Thorpe, M R Ramprakash, C White, A Flintoff, ÝJ S Foster, R K J Dawson, J Ormond, M J Hoggard.
Bowling: Yohannan 5-0-9-0 (w1); Siddiqui 4-2-2-0; Kumble 6-2-16-0; Harbhajan Singh 5-4-1-0 (one spell each).
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and S Venkataraghavan.Reuse content