Dravid has England on the back foot

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The Independent Online

Rahul Dravid delivered a defiant half-century as India fought back from an early setback to frustrate England and progress towards a major total in the final Test.

The former India captain entered the match at the PCA Stadium under pressure for his place after scoring only two half-centuries in his last 19 Test innings while there were discussions about dropping him down the order.

But Dravid played a key role in establishing India's strong position in the final Test today by hitting an unbeaten 50 and sharing in an unbroken 128-run stand with Gautam Gambhir which guided their side to 134 for one at tea on the first day.

The tourists were given a flying start in their bid to bounce back from the disappointment of their first Test defeat with Stuart Broad marking his recall by dismissing dangerous opener Virender Sehwag with his sixth ball of the match.

Having dismissed the explosive Sehwag, who was man-of-the-match at Chennai, England then struggled to make any further inroads with Gambhir teaming up with Dravid to dominate after India won the toss and decided to bat first when play began 20 minutes late because of bad light.

Nottinghamshire seamer Broad, overlooked for the opening Test while he continued his recovery from a hamstring strain, was preferred to strike bowler Steve Harmison as England made just one change to the line-up beaten by six wickets at the Chepauk Stadium.

Recalled to the side just two Tests ago, Durham fast bowler Harmison disappointed to such an extent in the previous Test that captain Kevin Pietersen gave him only six overs on the final day as India chased down their victory target.

The decision to drop Harmison for the second time this year was quickly vindicated in the second over of the match with Broad seaming the ball away from Sehwag and inducing an edge behind to give England a flying start after the start had been delayed for 20 minutes by bad light.

But despite an impressive new ball spell from Broad, England struggled to build on that success as Gambhir and Dravid began to exploit a flat batting wicket.

Dravid entered the under great pressure to perform and end a barren run of nine innings without a half-century and began cautiously, taking 46 balls to reach double figures which he achieved with his first aggressive shot of the innings when he pulled James Anderson for his first boundary in five Test innings.

Gambhir was the more positive of the pair before lunch, but after the interval the roles were reversed with Dravid suddenly finding his touch to hit three boundaries inside the first four overs after the break.

Opener Gambhir progressed to his second half-century of the series, which included seven boundaries and was given a reprieve after reaching 70 when he drove off-spinner Graeme Swann and edged low to Paul Collingwood at slip but the ball slipped away from his fingertips at full stretch.

Dravid brought up his own landmark in the final over before tea when he clipped all-rounder Andrew Flintoff through midwicket for two to underline India's dominance.