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India end 2008 with another series win

Last updated on: December 23, 2008 18:37 IST

India won the two-Test series against England 1-0 after the second Test ended in a tame draw in Mohali on Tuesday, the hosts preferring to play it safe rather than push for an improbable victory.

Set a near-impossible target of 403 from 43 overs, England scored 64 for 1 in their second innings before the curtain came down on an emotional series that got underway barely two weeks after the Mumbai terror attacks.

With fog robbing play for much of the opening session on most of the days, a draw was the likely result as both teams took the field on the last day.

As the Indians were in no mood to take any risks, the final day's play turned out to be quite dreary, with Gautam Gambhir (97) and Yuvraj Singh (86) briefly providing the sparks before the belated Indian declaration came shortly after the lunch break.

Resuming at the overnight score of 134 for 4, India declared at 251 for seven wickets in the post-lunch session, a total they owed to the 153-run stand between Gambhir and Yuvraj.

It was the second successive Test series triumph for India after beating Australia 2-0 in the four-match series in October-November.

But, more than the result, the series will be remembered for reasons beyond cricket, as it was played under the shadow of terrorism in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage.

With the possibility of an outright result bleak, both the teams decided to stop the pointless exercise an hour before its schedule close.

To inject some life into the dull match, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni took his pads off and bowled the last over as VVS Laxman donned the wicketkeeper's gloves.

This was the first time that India drew under Dhoni's captaincy. The match was in sharp contrast to the epic first Test in Chennai, where India successfully chased down 387 runs for a memorable win.

The 153-run stand between a sedate Gambhir and a sizzling Yuvraj was the lone highlight of India's second innings.

A thick fog that became a ritual during the match again threw the schedule in complete disarray and play finally got underway at 1130 IST, with a one-hour morning session.

That India would not go out of the way to press for a win was completely evident as the hosts batted on. By the time India declared following Gambhir's dismissal some 10 overs after lunch, the prospect of a result had long gone up in smoke.

The only point of interest seemed whether Gambhir would notch his second century of the match. The pint-sized left-hander from Delhi could not, falling three runs shy of the milestone.

It still turned out to be a memorable match for the diminutive Delhi player, who scored 179 in the first innings.

It was rather surprising to see both Yuvraj and Gambhir return to continue from where they had left. By then it was clear that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men were playing for a draw.

Playing without purpose, India suddenly lost three wickets in six overs before Dhoni felt it was safe to set England on a chase.

An almighty mix-up with Gambhir saw Yuvraj falling short of the crease as Ian Bell's direct throw broke the stumps. It was a sad end to Yuvraj' entertaining 93-ball 86, which was studded with four sixes and six fours.

Dhoni's innings was a two-ball duck. He offered a tame catch to Monty Panesar and Gambhir then fell to Swann in the 73rd over when Bell took a brilliant catch at backward point.

It was an uncharacteristically patient knock by Gambhir, who spent five-and-half hours in the middle, facing 229 balls, five of which were hit to the fence.

For England, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann got a wicket apiece.

With India not interested in a win and an England victory just not a possibility, the only task at hand for the visiting batsmen was to bat out the rest of the day and return with honours even.

Opener Andrew Strauss avoided the pair and remained not out on 21, while Ian Bell was unbeaten on 24.

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