Dravid leads the way at Leeds
England vs India:
3nd Test: Day 1
Headingley, Leeds, England
Report status: Stumps
Sunil Gavaskar described Rahul Dravid's 12th Test century as the best he's seen by the Indian vice-captain. Coming from a man with 34 Test centuries and over 10,000 runs to his name, the compliment is nothing if not fulfilling for the stylish player, who crossed 5,000 runs in his Test career in the course of the hundred.
If Dravid's hundred was the showpiece of the day, Sanjay Bangar's five-hour 68 was the foundation on which India had its finest opening day in the series.
India finished at 236 for 2, with Dravid undefeated on 110 and Sachin Tendulkar on 18.
Eleven maidens in the 28-over morning session saw India trudge along to 58 for 1, having lost Virender Sehwag early in the innings.
At lunch, Rahul Dravid was undefeated on 17, with Sanjay Bangar on 22.
The only thing that can ever get dull at Headingley is the weather; never a game of Test cricket. Don Bradman scored 309 runs in a single day's play; Ian Botham won the Ashes Test against Australia after England followed-on and the West Indies lost a Test inside two days two seasons ago.
Indiaís last hurrah in Test cricket was at this very venue in 1986, after riding on a brilliant hundred from Dilip Vengsarkar, which is ranked 31st in Wisden's top 100 batting performances of all-time.
After the ICC contract row that hogged the headlines all of last week, the India-England Test series was the focus of attention yet again. India won the toss and skipper Sourav Ganguly decided to bat despite the cloud cover enveloping the ground. Both teams included spinners, on a track that has a history of being biased to the seamers. India went a step ahead and included both their tweakers -- Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble -- while Nasser Hussain brought left-arm spinner Ashley Giles back into the team.
The fact that Australian spinner Shane Warne has just three wickets in the three Tests he has played on the ground only made the decision by either skipper to include spinners in the squad look rather surprising.
The Indian think-tank, however, resorted to the compromise formula and instead of picking S S Das -- fresh from his 250 against Essex -- picked Sanjay Bangar to open after opener Wasim Jaffer was left out of the playing eleven.
Bangar was picked ahead of Das for his bowling abilities, highlighting the attitude of the Indian think-tank to look at short-term solutions instead of looking at a more purposeful scheme. Kumble edged out Ashish Nehra while England swapped Dominic Cork and Steve Harmison for Andy Caddick and Alex Tudor.
Andy Flintoff was picked despite his groin injury. Skipper Hussain had said: "Andrew's groin is the worst it has been all summer and if he plays I will have to look after him by bowling him only 10 overs in the day. How much he can do though does affect the balance of the side."
Home to the likes of Sir Len Hutton, Fred Trueman and Sir Geoffrey Boycott and the Yorkshire county, Headingley saw their latest sensation Matthew Hoggard spearhead the English attack in the absence of Darren Gough, another Yorkshireman.
Bangar and Sehwag walked out to bat and after the latter drove a rusty Andrew Caddick to the fence, the brave decision by Ganguly to bat first was duly tested. Caddick and Hoggard wobbled the ball away from the bat, generating exaggerated bounce from the crack-infested playing strip.
Hoggard, the better of the opening bowlers, scythed parabolas in the air, swinging the ball away from the openers, and was rewarded when he pitched one on length and had Sehwag swish at the delivery without moving his feet. The same shot has produced countless scintillating strokes, but today it took the edge of the bat and flew to Flintoff at second slip.
India lost Sehwag for eight and England had encashed on the early moisture in the pitch.
Bangarís stay at the crease was effective though not attractive as he batted defiantly, eschewing the swishes outside off-stump.
With the English seamers bowling too wide outside off, Dravid and Bangar effortlessly let the ball sail into the keeperís gloves. The only exciting moment of the morning session was when Dravid survived a shy from Michael Vaughan in the covers. Otherwise, he was watchful and brave in his stay at the crease as the ball reared up at the ribs with alarming regularity. The pair added 43 for the second wicket.
Post Lunch session
Sanjay Bangar and Rahul Dravid toiled to their half-centuries, taking India to a position of strength at 132 for 1 at tea.
Alex Tudor, getting prodigal late swing, rapped Dravid on the fingers soon after lunch. He was, no doubt, Englandís best bowler as Caddick failed to find the right channels and drifted down leg for easy pickings.
India closed in on the 100-run mark after the first hour of the post-lunch session, having upped the scoring rate. The cloud cover was chased away by the clear sky and batting just got easier.
Dravid and Bangar gnawed away at the lackluster English bowling and though piles of maidens were bowled through the innings, it never seemed to trouble the batsmen.
The English seamers, barring Tudor, bowled with an unchanging method, bringing monotony to their game even as Hussain made 10 bowling changes through the two sessions.
Bangar smashed a Caddick full toss outside leg stump to the boundary as India reached the 100-run mark. Dravid, having had a measure of the wicket, pulled Hoggard to the mid-wicket fence.
Bangarís was a model of self-discipline under trying conditions, never attempting any extravagant strokes and playing well within his limitations. A run short of his half-century, he stroked the ball to the covers and scampered through for a single as Vaughan missed his second run-out chance of the day.
His stubborn 166-ball half century, which had seven fours, was soon matched by Dravid's 28th half-century, off 153 balls.
India went into lunch at 132 for 1, having scored 84 runs in the session.
Post Tea session:
Flintoff dropped a straightforward chance at second slip after Bangar was finally tempted by Tudorís line outside off and edged the ball.
Dravid immediately slapped a straight four off the next ball as India crossed the 150-run mark.
Hussain introduced Giles back into the attack and the Indian batsmen tore into the left-arm spinner every time he erred. Bangar crashed him through covers when he dropped short and then stroked a half volley through extra-cover.
England finally had Bangar gloving a short Flintoff delivery down the leg side to keeper Stewart. It was the end of a fabulous 170-run partnership. Bangar, dismissed for 68, repaid the faith shown by the team in him. (185-2)
The first 15 overs after tea saw the Indians race away to 57 runs at 3.8 an over. Hussain seemed to have resigned to the fact that his bowlers had given the game away in the first session of the play by bowling too full.
Tendulkarís arrival at the crease spurred Flintoff, who bowled a searching over. He peppered the batsman with the short stuff aimed at his rib cage.
Dravid scored two scrumptious boundaries in the next over from Tudor and raced away into the nineties.
India raced past the 200-run mark when Flintoff swung a delivery into Tendulkar from outside leg-stump. The ball missed the batsman and the keeper for four byes.
Hussain took the new ball after 81 overs and Tendulkar greeted him with a crisp straight drive down the ground for four.
Dravid reached his second successive century of the series by turning Hoggard off his pads with his 14th boundary. He enthralled the rapt crowd with his quality stroke-play on a wicket that was dual-paced and had uneven bounce.
India ended the day at 237 for 2.
Dravid's 51-run partnership with Tendulkar paved the way for a solid foundation for India in the Test. With the wicket easing out the Indian batsmen can pile on a huge total and test the English batsmen with their two spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble.
104 runs were scored in the final session of play at a rate of 3.3 as Dravid led the players off the pitch unbeaten on 110.