Ton up Dravid, Gambhir put India on top

Mohali, December 20:

India took charge of the second and final cricket Test against England here on Saturday after posting a commanding 453 in their first innings.

Rahul Dravid returned to form with a century and Gautam Gambhir completed 1,000 runs in the year as India survived a middle-order slump to leave England with a mountain to climb.

The tourists, seeking a series-levelling win after losing the first Test in Chennai by six wickets, must not only put up a big total, but also give themselves enough time to bowl India out a second time. England, due to bat nine overs before stumps, were unable to begin their reply as umpires Daryl Harper and Asad Rauf called off play due to fading light.

Dravid and Gambhir put on 314 for the second wicket after coming together at the dismissal of Virender Sehwag in the second over of the match on Friday. Dravid scored 136, his 26th Test century and the first in 20 innings since making 111 against South Africa in Chennai in March.

Left-handed Gambhir, who was on 106 overnight, went on to make 179 to take his tally this year to 1,037 runs from eight Tests at an average of 69.13. The 27-year-old Gambhir moved past 1,000 runs in the calendar year with a flick off Collingwood to become the fourth Indian after Tendulkar, Laxman and Sehwag to achieve the feat in 2008.

The only other instance in Test history when four batsmen from a country scored 1,000 runs in one year was when England’s Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook did it in 2006.

India were comfortably placed at 320-1 when England fought back with four quick wickets to reduce the hosts to 339-5 in the post-lunch session. Yuvraj Singh and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni added 40 for the sixth wicket, before a late order revival saw India pass the 450-run mark.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann removed Gambhir and Dravid in the space of nine runs after lunch, both batsmen falling to miscued lofted balls while trying to quicken the run rate. Swann then trapped first Test century-maker Sachin Tendulkar leg-before for 11 and Andrew Flintoff earned a similar verdict against Venkatsai Laxman (naught).

Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar earned his first success in the match when he had Yuvraj caught behind for 27 and later had Harbhajan Singh holing out in the deep. Flintoff and Swann finished with three wickets each, while Panesar claimed two.