The Lord’s Test is perfectly poised for a final flourish with England needing nine wickets on the final day to wrest the all important lead in the Test series. India, on the other hand, need 378 more runs to pull off an astonishing victory over the hosts but what would be a more realistic target would be playing out 90 overs to secure a draw. The obstacles standing in their way apart from the three English pacers and Graeme Swann is the question marks over the availability of Gautam Gambhir and the ineligibility of Sachin Tendulkar to bat at No. 4.
Gautam Gambhir was injured while fielding at short leg just minutes before tea when star of the day Matt Prior swept hard to connect with his elbow. Gambhir had to go to the hospital for an X-Ray but he returned just before stumps with news that there was no fracture. Tendulkar, suffering from fever, didn’t take the field on Day 4 and that meant he wouldn’t be allowed to bat until India are 5 wickets down or till half an hour after lunch.
England, resuming at 5/0 and a lead of 193, faced some quality bowling at the start of the day. Although Praveen Kumar removed Cook and Harbhajan got rid of Strauss, it was Ishant’s session to remember. He welcomed Pietersen’s arrival to the crease with a couple of short deliveries and finally got him to feather an edge with another bouncer. He bowled Trott with a beauty that would have beaten the best of the lot and induced an edge of Bell’s bat. When Morgan mistimed a pull, England were reduced to 102/6 with India were playing like champions on the prowl. But they failed to maintain this momentum as Prior, in the company of Broad, began counter attacking. When he opened up and began playing strokes, Dhoni got defensive and spread his fields. India backed off and were feeling the absence of Zaheer Khan as the duo ensured that there were no more casualties before tea. Post tea, it was all carnage! 12 overs went for 96 runs as Prior brought up yet another century from the No 7. slot while Strauss declared with Broad unbeaten on an useful 71 and a mammoth lead of 457.
The absence of Gambhir meant that Dravid was forced to open the innings with Mukund and they started solidly putting on 19 runs in the first eight overs until Broad struck again in the first over of his spell. Mukund poked at a full delivery from the crease and, for the second time in the match, the ball cannoned into the stumps of his bat. Laxman, India’s crisis man, walked in at No.3 and played out 131 deliveries in the company of Dravid as India went into stumps at 80/1 – another 378 runs behind or rather another 450 deliveries to play out.
Dravid and Laxman have bailed India out of impossible situations before but batting on the last day against at Lords will be quite a task. Tendulkar and Gambhir will fight illness and injury and come out to bat while Dhoni has the experience of playing with the tail to save a Test four years ago at the same venue. The Test could end in a hurry with the scorecard reading a sorry figure or in the third session after the Indians show some resistance. It could end in a draw, but definitely not a dull one or, even if things turnaround completely, with India chasing the target (Forgive me if I sound over-optimistic).
Whatever happens, expect a day of enthralling action, just worthy of the 2000th Test!