Dravid and Kumble lead the fight to lift Flintoff's siege

India's captain the obstacle as tourists look to seize control
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The Independent Online

In designing Chandigarh, opinion is divided on whether the architect Le Corbusier created a Utopia for the Punjab or just another dull concrete city that could have been put anywhere. A bit of both probably. The seventh Test at the modern cricket ground in the suburb of Mohali, hampered by poor weather, has also veered between the two.

By the end of the third day, neither team was quite sure whether to try to head for the idyllic state of a lead in the series with one to play, or settle for the grey safety of a draw with promise of more to come. At least there was a full day's play embracing 93 overs, by the end of which both India and England enjoyed their moments.

England's declared quest for 400 seemed to be on a reasonable course until it foundered with the fall of their last five wickets for 17 runs. The last three went without addition, in four balls to Anil Kumble, the middle of which made him the fifth bowler to take 500 Test wickets.

For an hour or so afterwards, India threatened to build a lead quickly enough and sufficiently large to concern the tourists. But England remain tough. On a pitch granting bounce (as well as turn), some fast bowling of an extremely high pedigree - and a stunning catch - reminded the home side that an illustrious batting order on paper does not translate automatically into big runs.

Such is the plethora of international cricket that landmarks seem to arise as often as lentils on an Indian dining table. But some dhals are better than others and that applies also to Kumble's achievement in becoming the fifth bowler, third spinner and first Indian to take 500 Test wickets. He neither turns nor drifts it much, but he does just enough of both, combined with variations of pace, to make batsmen feel as if they are being hunted down. He is billed as a leg-spinner but he regularly employs a well-disguised googly.

The manner in which Kumble completed his feat was both grand and characteristic. He came into the match on 496 and had taken two wickets earlier in the innings by fooling Ian Bell with a deceptively gentle wrong-'un and Paul Collingwood with a leg break which spun a crucial millimetre past the outside edge.

In action immediately yesterday, when play at last resumed after two severely curtailed days, he had to bide his time. He might have had Geraint Jones at any time in the opening exchanges. There is nothing especially complicated or devious about Kumble but Jones would have been happier cracking the Da Vinci code than attempting to locate where his tormentor was putting the next ball.

It was greatly to Jones' credit that he survived this struggle. Maybe he was encouraged by having Andrew Flintoff as his partner. Together, they have shared several bountiful stands for England and only one other sixth-wicket pairing (Tony Greig and Alan Knott) has a higher runs aggregate.

Flintoff looked in chipper form: so he should have been, as captain and father both only for the second time. He was dropped early at slip but that apart was never less than judicious in his shot selection. He made it his business to go after 17-year-old leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and struck him for two sixes an over. Thus arrived the day's first landmark, because those shots took Flintoff to an English record of 68 career sixes, past Ian Botham's 67, and into sixth on the all-comers' list. The two had put on 103, their fifth stand together of more than three figures, when Flintoff, moving through the gears, drove a return catch to the debutant Munaf Patel.

That provoked the clatter of wickets which opened up the match. Liam Plunkett was snared down the leg side and then came Kumble for his big moment. He left Jones, who had reached his seventh Test fifty, perplexed once more and the ball rebounded from bat to stumps - 499.

In came Stephen Harmison and Kumble, as he has done so often before, fired the ball in flatter and quicker, hitting the batsman plumb in front - 500 and on a hat-trick. Monty Panesar kept out the next ball but not the one after it which he could only edge to slip: 501 and England were all out 100 short of their target.

It was noticeable immediately that Harmison ran in with more purpose, doubtless inspired by the nature of the pitch. For the last few months he would have had more fun and probably considerably more success flogging life from dead horses.

The ball with which he dismissed Virender Sehwag after a bright start was a straight, probing bouncer. Forced to play, Sehwag gloved behind. India settled down to accumulate.

It was beginning to take on an air of inevitability when Wasim Jaffer mistimed a drive against Panesar and was caught at cover. Next came the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar (perhaps the second most prized these days after Rahul "The Wall" Dravid). Flintoff bowled straight and ferociously and the little master could only fend to second slip.

Five overs from the close, Yuvraj Singh drove Matthew Hoggard on the up high past cover. Or past cover, at least, was the intention. Ian Bell flung himself high to his left, both feet off the ground and held a one-handed catch. In the city of Chandigarh, it was a Utopian effort.

Marcus Trescothick yesterday withdrew from the rest of England's India tour two weeks after he had returned home for personal reasons. He said in a statement he intends to be available for selection again in the summer.

Four players have been added to the one-day squad for the seven-match series in India, covering for the additional absence of Michael Vaughan, Simon Jones (whose apparent torn cartilage has turned out to be fluid on the knee) and Ashley Giles. They are Owais Shah, Vikram Solanki, Gareth Batty and Sajid Mahmood, the last three of whom will join the squad from England A's Caribbean tour.

England's One-Day Squad (for India tour): A Flintoff (capt, Lancashire), K Ali (Worcestershire), J M Anderson (Lancashire), G J Batty (Worcestershire), I R Bell (Warwickshire), I D Blackwell (Somerset), P D Collingwood (Durham), S J Harmison (Durham), G O Jones (Kent), S I Mahmood (Lancashire), K P Pietersen (Hampshire), L E Plunkett (Durham), M J Prior (Sussex), O A Shah (Middlesex), V S Solanki (Worcestershire), A J Strauss (Middlesex).


England won toss

England - First Innings

(Overnight 200-5)

* A Flintoff c and b Patel 70

(Miscued attempted straight drive back to bowler; 180 min, 123 balls, 10 fours, 1 six)

ÝG O Jones b Kumble 52

(Ball bounced back on to stumps from forward defensive; 185 min, 134 balls, 8 fours)

L E Plunkett c Dhoni b Patel 0

(Thin edge to keeper attempting leg-glance; 24 min, 14 balls)

M J Hoggard not out 4 (31 min, 25 balls)

S J Harmison lbw b Kumble 0

(Hit on front pad prodding forwards; 1 min, 1 ball)

M S Panesar c Dravid b Kumble 0

(Edge to slip pushing forwards; 2 min, 2 balls)

Extras (lb5 w1 nb6) 12

Total (432 min, 103.4 overs) 300

Fall (contd): 6-283 (Flintoff), 7-290 (Plunkett), 8-300 (Jones), 9-300 (Harmison), 10-300 (Panesar).

Bowling: Pathan 28-9-71-2 (nb2,w1) (8-2-23-2 4-0-19-0 4-1-12-0 3-1-9-0 2-2-0-0 7-3-8-0), Patel 25-6-72-3 (nb3) (3-0-13-0 5-0-23-0 8-1-23-1 4-3-5-0 5-2-8-2), Harbhajan Singh 12-0-31-0 (5-0-14-0 1-0-1-0 2-0-5-0 4-0-11-0), Chawla 9-1-45-0 (5-1-20-0 4-0-25-0), Kumble 29.4-8-76-5 (nb1) (28-8-74-2 1.4-0-2-3).

Flintoff 50: 142 min, 94 balls, 10 fours.

Jones 50: 166 min, 126 balls, 8 fours.

India - First Innings

W Jaffer c Flintoff b Panesar 31

(Uppish drive to extra cover, beaten by flight; 149 min, 104 balls, 2 fours)

V Sehwag c Jones b Harmison 11

(Gloved lifting ball to keeper; 18 min, 13 balls, 2 fours)

* R Dravid not out 60

(226 min, 147 balls, 4 fours)

S R Tendulkar c Strauss b Flintoff 4

(Edge to second slip from sharply lifting delivery; 21 min, 15 balls)

Yuvraj Singh c Bell b Hoggard 15

(Brilliant flying catch at short extra-cover off flashing drive; 48 min, 30 balls, 1 four)

Ý M S Dhoni not out 12 (24 min, 18 balls, 2 fours)

Extras (lb12 w1 nb3) 16

Total (for 4, 245 min, 54 overs) 149

Fall: 1-18 (Sehwag), 2-96 (Jaffer), 3-103 (Tendulkar), 4-134 (Yuvraj Singh).

To bat: I K Pathan, A Kumble, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, M M Patel.

Bowling: Hoggard 8-3-19-1 (w1) (7-3-18-0 1-0-1-1), Harmison 13-4-28-1 (5-1-8-1 6-2-14-0 2-1-6-0), Flintoff 11-3-35-1 (nb3) (4-2-11-0 5-1-16-1 2-0-8-0), Plunkett 6-1-14-0, Panesar 16-3-41-1 (one spell each).

Dravid 50: 178 min, 116 balls, 3 fours.

Umpires: S J A Taufell and D B Hair (Australia). TV umpire: A V Jayaprakash (India).

Match referee: R S Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

First Test: Match drawn.

Third Test: 18-22 March (Bombay).