Leeds: Rahul Dravid's second successive Test hundred guided India to a strong position against England on the first day of the third Test here at Headingley on Thursday. At stumps India was 236 for two with Dravid 110 not out and Sachin Tendulkar 18 not out.
Dravid, who made 115 in India's rearguard action during the second innings of the drawn second Test at Trent Bridge, flourished after some testing early overs. He brought up his 12th Test century with a four off his legs against England quick and home crowd favourite Matthew Hoggard, having been in for just over five hours. Dravid's hundred came off 220 balls and he hit 14 boundaries. Earlier opening batsman Sanjay Bangar, in his first Test of the series, made a valuable 68 in a determined innings lasting 297 minutes. Both Hoggard, who finished the day with one for 48 off 22 overs, and Alex Tudor, who had figures of 0-49 off 21 overs after being recalled to the team after a shin splint problem, bowled creditably without much luck.
India had started the final session on 132 for one off 59 overs, Bangar and Dravid both 51 not out. But England should have made the score 148 for two when Surrey quick Tudor took Bangar's outside edge, with the batsman on 53, only to see Andrew Flintoff at second slip drop the simple catch. Dravid though was as assured as he had been before tea, cover-driving a Hoggard outswinger for four. And Bangar then showed his class with a backfoot force and front foot driven boundaries off left-arm spinner Ashley Giles.
But he was eventually dismissed when trying to leg-glance paceman Flintoff, bowling from around the wicket, he gloved the ball instead and saw wicket-keeper Alec Stewart take the head-high catch. Bangar's runs had come from 236 balls and included 10 fours and together with Dravid he put on 170 in 68 overs for the second wicket after India had been 15 for one. He had more than justified his selection ahead of axed opener Wasim Jaffer, dropped after scoring just 59 runs in four innings this series. And he had also helped vindicate captain Saurav Ganguly's decision to bat first despite overcast conditions favouring seam bowling. Flintoff bowled 14 overs in the day despite worries about a groin injury that has troubled him throughout the series.
India scored slowly early on but crucially ground its way through some testing overs after Trent Bridge centurion Virender Sehwag (eight) was caught at second slip by Flintoff off Hoggard in the seventh over. But Dravid battled hard and when a single into the covers off Tudor took him to 30 it meant that, in his 63rd match, he had become the seventh Indian to score 5,000 Test runs. However, when on 40, Dravid survived an lbw appeal from Hoggard. Replays suggested the ball may have hit leg stump but Sri Lankan umpire Asoka de Silva was unmoved. England eventually its their previously all-seam attack with the introduction of Giles in the 50th over.
However, Giles, omitted from the team at Trent Bridge, did not succeed where speed had failed, Dravid on-driving him for a textbook boundary. Bangar then brought up a perservering 50 with a quick single off Tudor, although had Michael Vaughan's throw from the covers hit the stumps at the bowler's end he would have been run out by a distance. England leads the four match series 1-0 and India must win here to keep alive hopes of winning its first Test campaign outside the sub-continent in 16 years.