Russell puts England in command

SECOND TEST: England 344; India 83-2 Gloucestershire wicketkeeper scores second Test century but Prasad's pace keeps India in the match
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It may not have been the most dynamic day's cricket of the series but with sides as evenly matched as these, it was none the worse for it. In the end it belonged to two players, one with bat and the other with ball, who stood out from their colleagues with performances that will keep this Test match hanging in the balance for a while yet.

Jack Russell, subdued in comparison to Thursday's efforts, scored his second Test century and his six-and-a-bit-hour presence at the crease, was both the foundation and cornerstone of England's total of 344.

His eventual dismissal to Venkatesh Prasad was fitting, for the Indian paceman has bowled well and his 5 for 76 after a wicketless 80-minute spell before lunch was a just reward.

Opportunities to score hundreds batting at No 7 do not present themselves often and yesterday's 124 was celebrated with an elfin leap of glee and acknowledged with a big hug from Chris Lewis and a sporting handshake from Mohammad Azharuddin.

Sadly for Russell he fell just five runs short of his highest Test score, his first Test century scored almost seven years ago against Australia at Old Trafford. But if there was disappointment at not having set a new benchmark, it ought to have been directed at the tail-enders who batted as if they had left their heads back in the dressing-room.

Resuming their overnight partnership of 131 against the second new ball, Russell and Graham Thorpe - who had batted together for 162 minutes on Thursday - were almost immediately parted in the day's first over, when Ajay Jadeja's direct hit from gully found Thorpe just inches in.

The Surrey man responded to the indignity by striking Srinath's next ball imperiously through the covers for four. As a harbinger of further glory however, it was perilously short-lived and extracting some extra bounce, Srinath tucked the Surrey man up, forcing him to deflect a rising ball into his stumps.

It was the breakthrough India had wanted and it gave them their best chance of clawing themselves back into the match. However, England, reticent to concede further ground, went about their work more like sappers than batters.

By the time half the day's overs had been bowled, England had added just 96 runs, and one half expected to see the Lord's baize criss-crossed with battle trenches. And although batting appeared less demanding under yesterday's sunny skies than it had done on Thursday, it was never straightforward and Russell had to wait 116 minutes before scoring successive boundaries.

It was slow going and was matched only by Azharuddin's inaction over trying to make something happen. Behind that bemused look of his, Azharuddin has clearly got his mind elsewhere and he allowed play to drift when it needed his direction. In the end it was left to Tendulkar - who frequently made journeys between balls to his captain from his position at mid-off - to gently cajole his captain into making changes.

One such suggestion was to leave the on side open to Chris Lewis, a gambit that almost worked until Lewis got his eye in and began to hit the ball through the vacant gap.

He was still middling the ball sweetly when Prasad found the edge of his bat with one that bounced from outside off-stump, the catch being brilliantly taken by the keeper Nayan Mongia, diving in front of first slip, leaving England on 326 for 7, a position of relative safety rather than strength.

It would have been something an old pro like Russell recognised, and he would have impressed on his partners the importance of ekeing as many runs as possible from the first innings.

However, judging from the response he got (the loss of Dominic Cork and Peter Martin both to appalling shots) he would have got more sense from the pigeons at extra cover.

For a man whose Test runs appear to have dried up, Cork seemed more intent on staring out Prasad than scoring runs. Greeted by a bouncer first ball, it was only a matter of time before the machismo took over and his dismissal to a snicked wild drive was almost identical to the one at Edgbaston.

Martin was no less culpable. After lofting Prasad just over extra cover's head - a shot Russell rightly bollocked him for - he clipped his next ball straight to Tendulkar at mid-on. When Russell followed an over later, caught by the same fielder, Prasad's afternoon spell had yielded 4 for 7 from 32 balls.

His guile was not matched by England's bowlers and it took a brilliant catch by Nasser Hussain at third slip to get rid of Rathore and give England the breathrough.

Mongia, pressed into action as an opener, followed 24 runs later, his lbw having forced Dickie Bird into raising his digit for the second time in the match. Like Atherton's, it was not plumb and Mongia appeared to let the umpire have a Hindi version of his thoughts on the matter.

Lord's scoreboard

India won toss

ENGLAND - First innings

Overnight: 238 for 5

G P Thorpe b Srinath 89

239 min, 178 balls, 10 fours

R C Russell c Tendulkar b Prasad 124

371 min, 261 balls, 13 fours

C C Lewis c Mongia b Prasad 31

155 min, 118 balls, 3 fours

D G Cork c Mongia b Prasad 0

22 min, 24 balls

P J Martin c Tendulkar b Prasad 4

8 min, 8 balls, 1 four

A D Mullally not out 0

5 min, 3 balls

Extras (b13,lb11,nb14) 38

Total (565 min, 130.3 overs) 344

Fall (cont): 6-243 (Thorpe), 7-326 (Lewis), 8-337 (Cork), 9-343 (Martin), 10-344 (Russell).

Bowling: Srinath 33-9-76-3 (nb4) (7-4-5-1, 7-2-16-1, 8-0-30-0, 5-1-18- 1, 6-2-7-0); Prasad 33.3-10-76-5 (nb1) (5-3-4-0, 4-1-8-0, 8-2-24-1, 3- 0-11-0, 8-2-21-0; 5.3-2-8-4); Mhambrey 19-3-58-0 (nb8) (4-1-15-0, 5-0- 22-0, 6-0-18-0, 4-2-3-0); Kumble 28-9-60-0 (1-0-5-0, 9-2-23-0, 2-1-6-0, 5-4-6-0, 11-2-20-0); Ganguly 15-2-49-2 (nb3) (6-1-20-2, 3-0-16-0, 6-1- 13-0); Tendulkar 2-1-1-0 (one spell).

Progress: Second day: 250: 381 min, 85.4 overs. 300: 472 min, 107.5 overs. Lunch: 300-6 (Russell 106, Lewis 19) 108 overs.

Thorpe's 50: 122 min, 100 balls, 7 fours.

Russell's 50: 120 min, 88 balls, 5 fours. 100: 234 min, 172 balls, 11 fours.

INDIA - First Innings

V Rathore c Hussain b Cork 15

49 min, 31 balls, 2 fours

N R Mongia lbw b Lewis 24

123 min, 95 balls, 3 fours

S Ganguly not out 26

123 min, 74 balls, 4 fours

S R Tendulkar not out 16

49 min, 41 balls, 2 fours

Extras (lb1,nb1) 2

Total (for 2, 174 min, 40 overs) 83

Fall: 1-25 (Rathore), 2-59 (Mongia).

To bat: *M Azharuddin, A D Jadeja, R S Dravid, A Kumble, J Srinath, P L Mhambrey, B K V Prasad.

Bowling: Lewis 11-1-28-1 (5-1-11-0, 6-0-17-1); Cork 13-6-22-1 (nb2) (7- 3-16-1, 6-3-6-0); Mullally 9-4-18-0 (6-3-8-0, 3-1-10-0); Martin 5-1-13- 0; Irani 2-1-1-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Second day: 50: 96 min, 22.2 overs.

Umpires: H D Bird and D B Hair.

TV replay umpire: A G T Whitehead.

Match referee: C W Smith.

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