England indebted to Russell

England 344 and 278-9 dec India 429 Match drawn : SECOND TEST: Blend of youth and experience combine to thwart Indian hopes of a victory to square the series
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As expected England saved this match, but it took a combination of grit and good fortune to do so. Needing to bat at least until tea to make the game safe, England found themselves going to lunch in a precarious state with six wickets down and a lead of just 85 runs. In the end, it took a seventh-wicket stand worth 60 runs between Jack Russell and Ronnie Irani to defuse the situation and preserve England's 1-0 lead in the series.

Once again, England had cause to be indebted to Russell, and yesterday's 38 - which took up 198 minutes - was almost as valuable as the 124 he made in the first innings. In all Russell batted for nine and a half hours in this match and no one will have acknowledged the importance of that more than his captain. It was Russell, remember, who kept Atherton company for 276 minutes during his own great rearguard action in Johannesburg last December.

It is not often, however, that a man who scores a hundred in the first innings of a Test match and saves his side from defeat in the second will be forgotten before the week is out but, if England's footballers beat Germany tomorrow, Russell will be that man.

One player who will not forget the experience, though, is Irani, whose 41 contained a heady mixture of aggressive and streaky strokes. The Essex batsman may be brimming with self-belief, but his hook at Javagal Srinath's first ball after lunch, with two men set back on the boundary, was foolhardy in the extreme.

Unlike he had done with Peter Martin in the first innings, Russell did not interject with a bollocking. Instead, he allowed his siege mentality to be absorbed by the younger man, who, despite being dropped by Vikram Rathore at second slip, visibly tightened his game. And only an inside-edge - off a ball that did not bounce - denied him a deserved maiden half-century in his second Test.

It is not often that the last day of a drawn Test match proves the most riveting and it took several early wickets to tweak the tension. Alec Stewart had added only one run to his overnight score before Srinath forced him to inside-edge the ball on to his stumps.

With Graham Thorpe following to a spiteful delivery from Anil Kumble that bounced viciously from out of the rough, India were suddenly favourites, despite a bowling attack already hampered by Venkatesh Prasad's bandaged finger.

But if the tall Karnatakan soldiered gamely on, it was his partner Srinath who was the bowler of the match. Together they make a formidable pair and both are tall strapping lads with beautifully high actions and equally big hearts. With a history littered with the greats of spin, they represent the new face of Indian bowling, and they comfortably outbowled England over the last five days.

However the home team, who have never enjoyed much success at Lord's, will claim they got the wrong end of the pitch twice: having batted first when the ball seamed and darted about under heavy cloud; as well as last, when the bounce was at its most mistrustful. Had India been required to make 200 in their second innings, they too would probably have struggled.

With India's morale in tatters after Edgbaston, many believed England would be sealing the series here, rather than prolonging it. Cricket though rejuvenates as quickly as it ravages, and India, far from being the leaderless and dejected team of a fortnight ago, have been lifted beyond recognition.

It is a transformation that owes almost everything to the two debutants, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, who both showed what can be achieved with a solid technique and patient occupation of the crease. They, in league with the constantly impressive opening bowlers, have ensured that India will travel to Trent Bridge in far better heart than they arrived here.

Not so England, who will have several questions to ask before the team next meets in Nottingham. The first of these ought to be why their seam bowlers are less effective, and although the excuse that India batted when the pitch was at its best holds some credence, none hit the pitch or seam as hard or from as high as Srinath and Prasad. Had India selected the equally tall Salil Ankola instead of Paras Mhambrey to be their third seamer, India may well have squared this series.

The other problem surrounds Graeme Hick, dismissed in single figures for the second time in the match. Unlike Stewart, Lord's is not his Shangri La, and he averages a measly 26 at HQ.

To be fair, there is little he could have done to avoid the corker Prasad bowled him, except perhaps to miss it, as the ball bounced steeply off a good length. Nevertheless, Hick has not played with distinction since his hundred in the first Test at Pretoria. In 10 innings he has scored just 167 runs at an average of 20.8, and like his captain, looks low on both confidence and form.


India won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings 344 (R C Russell 124, G P Thorpe 89; B K V Prasad 5-76).

INDIA - First Innings 429 (S C Ganguly 131, R S Dravid 95).

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 113 for 2)

*M A Atherton b Kumble 17

(72 min, 51 balls, 2 fours)

A J Stewart b Srinath 66

(192 min, 136 balls, 8 fours)

N Hussain c Dravid b Srinath 28

(96 min, 69 balls, 3 fours)

P J Martin c Rathore b Prasad 23

(122 min, 97 balls, 3 fours)

G P Thorpe c Rathore b Kumble 21

(54 min, 49 balls, 3 fours)

G A Hick c Mongia b Prasad 6

(35 min, 24 balls, 1 four)

R C Irani b Mhambrey 41

(139 min, 100 balls, 3 fours)

R C Russell lbw b Ganguly 38

(197 min, 136 balls, 2 fours)

C C Lewis not out 26

(81 min, 61 balls, 2 fours)

D G Cork c Azharuddin b Kumble 1

(4 min, 2 balls)

A D Mullally not out 0

(10 min, 6 balls)

Extras (b1 lb5 nb5) 11

Total (for 9 dec, 509 min, 121 overs) 278

Fall: 1-49 (Atherton), 2-109 (Hussain), 3-114 (Stewart), 4-154 (Thorpe), 5-167 (Hick), 6-168 (Martin), 7-228 (Irani), 8-274 (Russell), 9-275 (Cork).

Bowling: Srinath 29-8-76-2 (nb3) (10-3-25-0 9-3-21-2 7-1-25-0 3-1-5-0), Prasad 24-8-54-2 (4-1-15-0 6-1-16-0 9-5-13-2 2-1-3-0 3-0-7-0), Kumble 51-14-90-3 (38-11-69-2 13-3-21-1), Ganguly 3-0-5-1 (nb1) (1-0-3-0 2-0- 2-1), Mhambrey 14-3-47-1 (nb1) (3-0-13-0 7-3-11-1 4-0-23-0).

Progress: 150: 244 min, 58.4 overs. Lunch: 170-6 (Irani 2, Russell 0) 75 overs. New ball taken after 84 overs at 190-6. 200: 349 min, 85 overs. Tea: 230-7 (Russell 18, Lewis 1) 102 overs. 250: 467 min, 111.4 overs. England declared at 5.20pm.

Result: Match Drawn.

Umpires: H D Bird and D B Hair.

TV replay umpire: A G T Whitehead.

Match referee: C W Smith.

Man of the match: R C Russell.