New Delhi: Rahul Dravid batted through with a heroic unbeaten 146 but India failed to avoid follow on and were left with a daunting task of batting out the entire fifth day to save the final Test against England at The Ovals.

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Another milestone for Dravid, Tendulkar

Dravid notched up his 35th century and got some support from tailenders as India's first innings folded up for 300, forty minutes before tea break.

Following on, India were 129 for three at close on an eventful penultimate day with the visitors needing 162 more runs to avoid the ignominy of an innings defeat and a 0-4 series whitewash.

Sachin Tendulkar and nightwatchman Amit Mishra were batting on 35 and eight respectively at the draw of stumps.

Dravid displayed tremendous temperament and class to hold the innings together as wickets fell at the other end. India touched 300 for the first in the series yet they finished 291 runs behind England's 591 for six declared.

Dravid, who was left stranded on 146, walked in again to open India's second essay as Gautam Gambhir was still feeling the after-effects of concussion he suffered while fielding in England's first innings but could not contribute much as he was out for 13 in controversial circumstances.

He was ruled not out by the umpires but given out after referral by England though the television replays of the snickometer apparently showed that there was no contact with the ball and the bat.

When on seven, Dravid was given out by umpire Rod Tucker, caught at forward short leg. The batsman immediately asked for the DRS and was vindicated when the replays showed the ball had gone off his pads.

Gambhir's head hit the ground hard while attempting a catch on Saturday. He was later taken to the hospital for a scan as he was feeling uncomfortable this morning.

In Gambhir's absence, Dravid opened the innings with Sehwag while Laxman came at the number three position.

Earlier, England's plan of a 700-plus total took a hit due to unsuspected rain in the afternoon.

Resuming at 457 for three, England added 134 more runs for the loss of three wickets from 30 overs in the two hours of the opening session of the day, which also saw Bell notching up his career-best score.

But a slight drizzle took over as soon as players left the ground for lunch and it got heavier and steadier soon, making any chance of play impossible in the afternoon session.

The match finally resumed after a delay of nearly three hours with England declaring at 591 for six and Indians being asked to negotiate 33 overs in the remainder of the day.

The signs were bad for the visitors straightaway as regular opener Gambhir did not come out to bat because of the injury.

Sehwag, who had bagged a king's pair in the third Test at Edgbaston last week, took the first strike. He let go the first two deliveries before hitting two successive fours through the off-side of Anderson in the first over.

But the English pacer had the last laugh when he dismissed Sehwag LBW in the final delivery of the over with a ball that came in after pitching.

VVS Laxman, who came into bat at number three, lasted just seven balls as he nicked a Stuart Broad delivery to Matt Prior behind the stumps.

Sachin Tendulkar came in to a standing ovation for what surely must be his last Test on these shores.

Soon after his arrival at the crease he was hit on the helmet by a short delivery from Broad but Tendulkar responded in style, driving Broad to the long-on fence in the very next ball.
Tendulkar had two other anxious moments -- he was hit on his elbow, again ducking to Tim Bresnan when on 14 and then almost gave a caught and bowled opportunity to the same bowler.

He was otherwise elegant in his short stay, cutting Bresnan for four and then employing the sweep shot against Graeme Swann no sooner he was introduced in the 15th over of the innings.

Tendulkar though departed in Swann's third over, trying to sweep the off-spinner only managing to get a top-edge which James Anderson accepted gleefully just behind the wicketkeeper.

Tendulkar batted for 67 minutes and 34 balls and hit four fours during his innings. The 53 runs he shared with Dravid for the third wicket was enough for them to become the highest run-making pair ever in Test history, overtaking 6482 runs.

Ironically, Dravid at the other end was in complete command. He neither appeared tired nor upset at being once again asked to open the innings.

He began with a cut off the front foot off Anderson and then followed it up with an ondrive to midwicket and a steer to the third man fence off the same bowler.

Dravid also whipped Bresnan to the square leg boundary once and then hit Swann against the break for one past the extra cover fence.

The right-hander then took a heavy toll of Bresnan whom he clipped behind square, pulled to midwicket, steered to third man and cut to the mid-wicket fence.

Dravid reached his half century in 93 balls with a single on the off-side.

On the other hand, Suresh Raina, who has found this series an unnerving experience, was determined to stick it out this time around.

Raina handled the short-pitched deliveries better but failed to open his account during his 29-ball stay. He was given out stumped off Swann on a line decision.

After Raina's dismissal, India decided to send in night watchman Ishant Sharma, who predictably fell prey to Swann's guile, edging the off-spinner to forward short-leg for one run.

Earlier, starting on his overnight score of 181, Bell reached his milestone with minimum fuss and was finally adjudged leg before for 235 off part-time spinner Raina's bowling.

Bell is England's third double centurion of the series after Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook scored one each in the first and third Tests respectively. Bell also completed 5000 runs in Test cricket in the process.

The morning session saw 134 runs being scored from 30 overs losing only three wickets, one of which was of night watchman Anderson.

Sreesanth has been the most successful among the Indian bowlers with three for 123.

Bell who batted close to eight and half hours faced 364 deliveries in the process and his innings included 23 boundaries and two sixes.

Teams:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Amit Mishra, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh and S Sreesanth.

England: Andrew Strauss (C), Alastair Cook, KP Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ian Bell, Eoin Moragn, Ravi Bopara, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann.

Umpires: Simon Taufel and R Tucker

TV umpire: Steve Davis

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

(JPN/Agencies)