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LONDON: England remained in charge of their series opener with India despite Rahul Dravid finally achieving the coveted dream of a Test century at Lord’s yesterday -- 15 years after falling agonisingly short.
At the close of the third day, England were five without loss in their second innings, a lead of 193 runs after bowling India out for 286 in reply to their first innings 474 for eight declared.
The 38-year-old Dravid, dropped on 42, made 103 not out, finally getting his name on the Lord’s honours board 15 years after he was dismissed for 95 here on his debut in 1996.
His 33rd hundred in 154 Tests and fifth against England was key to India avoiding the follow-on.
It also went some way to compensating India fans who saw Sachin Tendulkar fall for 34 when what they wanted was for the ‘Little Master’ to score his 100th international hundred.
Tendulkar fell to Stuart Broad who, in increasingly overcast, seam-friendly conditions, led England’s attack with a miserly four for 37 in 22 overs.
India had hoped to have Zaheer Khan, their strike bowler, back for England’s second innings after the left-arm quick spent most of the first innings off the field with a hamstring strain.
But, worryingly for India, Zaheer did not take the field for the five overs England batted yesterrday.
England captain Andrew Strauss was three not out and Alastair Cook unbeaten on nought at stumps.
England, bidding to replace India at the top of the ICC’s Test Championship table, struggled as Dravid and Tendulkar, India’s two most experienced batsmen, compiled a third-wicket stand of 81.
The 38-year-old Tendulkar was given the unusual honour of a standing ovation by a capacity 28,500 crowd as he walked out to bat in what could be his last Test at Lord’s, with India 77 for two.
He had been rested from India’s recent tour of the West Indies and spent much of the intervening time practising at Lord’s, where his top score in seven previous Test innings was a mere 37.
Tendulkar’s first boundary, a backfoot puched cover-drive off fast bowler Chris Tremlett, was a classic.
But a 58-ball innings featuring six fours ended when Tendulkar edged a good length ball from Broad low to Graeme Swann at second slip.
Broad, who bowled India’s openers before lunch, might have dismissed all the trio of Tendulkar, Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman -- who now have 100 Test hundreds between them -- but for dropped catches.
Laxman was on nought when Strauss put down a sitter at first slip and the same over saw Swann, diving to his right, fail to hold a more difficult chance offered by Dravid.
Laxman, though, fell for 10 when he timed a flick off Tremlett so well that the ball flew straight to Jonathan Trott at long leg.
England took the new ball as soon as they could with India 235 for five off 80 overs.
It led to India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni edging Tremlett to Swann for a painstaking 28.
Harbhajan Singh was then caught behind off Tremlett for nought and India were 241 for seven -- still needing 34 to avoid the follow-on.
But Praveen Kumar, who had taken a Test-best five for 106 with his medium-pacers on Friday, proved a thorn in England’s side with the bat.
Dravid, 80 when Kumar came in, went into the 90s with a typically stylish on-driven four off Tremlett before Kumar’s single off Broad saved the follow-on.
However, Kumar was out for 17 when he skied a Broad bouncer and Strauss, running back from first slip, held the catch.
Dravid was now on 94 and batting with Zaheer, who had Kumar as his runner.
But Dravid then struck a magnificent cover-drive for four off the backfoot against Tremlett to go to 98.
And two off the paceman took him to a hundred completed in 202 balls with 15 boundaries in just over five hours at the crease.