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Jaffer scores ton as first Test ends in draw

Published: Sunday, March 5, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Nagpur:Comeback man Wasim Jaffer slammed a brilliant maiden Test ton (100) and put on a 167-run second wicket partnership with captain Rahul Dravid (71) to deny England any hopes of forcing a win as the first Test ended in a draw on the fifth and final day at the VCA ground here today.

Set a target of 368 for an unlikely win on a crumbling final day wicket from a minimum of 90 overs, India did make an audacious late charge with Irfan Pathan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashing the England bowlers to all parts of the ground, but then they had left their charge a little too late and finally the two teams had to be content with a draw.

When play was called off eleven overs before the scheduled close, India had reached 260 for six, still needing a further 108 runs for a victory. At the end, Sachin Tendulkar was unbeaten on 28.

Even though India fought back and forced a draw in this Test, the moral victors were England, who even after losing their regular captain Michael Vaughan and strike bowler Simon Jones due to injury and vice captain Marcus Trescothick due to ''personal'' reasons, showed character and the will to fight it out and dominated the match.

The visitors responded to the call of stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff and fought hard to outplay Indians before the Jaffer-Dravid combination saved face for the hosts on the last day.

India began disastrously as first innings hero Matthew Hoggard once again bowled brilliantly pitching the ball up and not giving anything to the batsmen. He had India's swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag back in the pavilion for nought bowling through the gate as Sehwag went for an expansive off-drive.

Dravid then joined Jaffer and the two played without taking any risks seeing off the opening spell from Hoggard who was right on the spot and not giving any room for the batsmen to play shots. Though Hoggard was not able to get as much swing today as he did on the third morning, he was extremely accurate and his first spell read 7-4-9-1.

At the other end, Harmison also bowled well, but he was punished for the few loose balls he bowled and Dravid got off the mark with a superb straight drive.

Flintoff then brought himself on and Jaffer immediately showed how good he is on the leg side flicking the stand-in-captain to the square leg fence and then in his next over followed it up with a terrific straight drive with the same result.

Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar was brought in after 17 overs and Jaffer came into his own driving him for two glorious on drives.

Jaffer continued to impress with his shot selection in between air tight defence. In the second over after lunch, he showed the array of shots he could play hitting Flintoff for three glorious fours reaching his 50 with the second boundary, a glorious cover drive which scorched the turf on way to the boundary. His half century came from 92 balls and was studded with eight fours.

However, soon after, Jaffer was lucky when Andrew Strauss at extra cover put down a hard chance at cover off an uppish drive by the lanky Mumbai lad.

At the other end, Dravid lived up to his nickname 'The Wall' and stoically defended all the bowlers could throw at him with an impeccable technique. He also showed his class with a square cut off Panesar, being the shot of the day.

Jaffer, then, survived his second life when Dravid sent him back after playing the ball into the covers. Matt Prior, the substitute fielder for Kevin Pietersen missed the stumps by a whisker with Jaffer yet to regain his ground. Jaffer was then on 70 with the team total on 100 for one.

The two then brought up the 100-run partnership for the second wicket in 235 balls.

However, the tempo of the game seemed to change after the tea break as Dravid thought they still had a chance of chasing down the victory target reaching his 50 with a square drive boundary off Flintoff. Dravid's 50 came after facing 168 balls and was studded with eight boundaries.

Dravid then came into his own as he treated all the bowlers alike dispatching them to all parts of the ground as India began their audacious run chase, a little too late though.

Dravid, after making 71, tried to make room for himself to play Panesar but the ball which had pitched on the leg stump spun across the face of his bat to clip off the bails. India were then 168 for three and Dravid sent Irfan Pathan up the order.

In the next over, Wasim Jaffer completed a well-deserved hundred which he had missed out in the first innings with a single on the off side. His 100 came from 197 balls and was studded with 12 boundaries.

At the other end, Pathan hit Flintoff for a four on the off stump and then lifted him straight into the stands for a huge six.

Jaffer, however, got out soon after trying to force the pace as he stepped out to Flintoff but hit the ball straight to cover where Strauss took a simple catch. Jaffer made an exact 100 and India were 198 for three then.

India promoted Mahendra Singh Dhoni to join Pathan but the target was too much for the two and Pathan was dismissed, caught by Strauss in the covers again off Flintoff for a brisk 35 off 25 balls with four hits to the fence and one six to make it four for 215.

Tendulkar then joined Dhoni and downed the shutters as India played out for a draw.

The hosts did have a late scare with Dhoni and Harbhajan getting out in quick succession but with bad light falling, the umpires, after asking Tendulkar and Flintoff, called off the match eleven overs early.

Once again for England, Matthew Hoggard was the most impressive bowler who, with his nagging accuracy and a bit of swing either way, made things difficult for the batsmen, while the debutant left arm spinner Monty Panesar also impressed in both innings with Sachin Tendulkar being his first Test wicket.

The wicket which was supposed to turn never did so and it was a good batting wicket for all the five days.

Scorecard of Test 1

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