England close in on a possible whitewash
The whitewash is well and truly on. Despite another session being lost to rain, and the best efforts of Rahul Dravid, England surged at The Oval as India were left in tatters on 103 for 5 in reply to the hosts' massive 591 for 6.
The whitewash is well and truly on. Despite another session being lost to rain, and the best efforts of Rahul Dravid, England surged at The Oval as India were left in tatters on 103 for 5 in reply to the hosts' massive 591 for 6. Ian Bell carried his serene maiden Test double to 235 then, after a four-over delay, Virender Sehwag was removed in the first over of India's reply and a of succession team-mates, including Sachin Tendulkar, followed him with Graeme Swann making a major impression with three wickets.
Scorecard and Day in pics
England would probably and carried on their run-glut towards 650 - or even consecutive scores of 700, something that has never been done - had the weather not closed in at lunch and, despite a damp outfield, it was a fairly straightforward decision for Andrew Strauss to let his bowlers lose during a long final session. After a quiet time this is looking like Swann's match with substantial turn already on offer out of the footmarks. If he is the matchwinner it really will be the complete series for England.
Having seen Swann's first ball turn from RP Singh's follow through Tendulkar tried to counter the threat by sweeping. It took Swann a little time to settle, but the sweep proved Tendulkar's downfall when he gloved a chance over the wicketkeeper's head and James Anderson jogged round to hold the catch.
Suresh Raina was given a torrid time by pace and spin and couldn't open his account before being brilliantly stumped by Matt Prior for a 29-ball duck - the joint longest by an India batsman - as Swann spun one sharply past a lunging prod. The foot was probably on the line, but it was a brave decision from the third umpire Steve Davis. To cap Swann's best day of the series he had nightwatchman Ishant Sharma caught at short leg two overs before the close.
India's problems were compounded by Gautam Gambhir suffering concussion following the blow he took to the head while dropping Kevin Pietersen on Friday which meant India had to shuffle their line-up again. However, even if Dravid had remained at No. 3 he wouldn't have had a long wait. There he was at the close, defiant on 57, with another mountain to climb.
Sehwag at least avoided a third golden duck after his king pair at Edgbaston but didn't go much further. After two sighters outside off stump he played a pair of trademark back-foot drives off Anderson who responded with a delivery that nipped back to trap Sehwag lbw in front of middle and leg. It meant the sum total of his series was eight balls, eight runs and three dismissals while, for the fourth time in the series, India had lost a wicket in the opening over.
When it comes to changing India's batting line-up Tendulkar never shifts so it was VVS Laxman at No. 3 where he hasn't been comfortable during this series. He received an excellent delivery from Stuart Broad that seamed away to take the outside edge as England's quicks extracted far more life from the surface than India's bowlers managed. And so, for the seventh innings in a row, there was a standing ovation as a batsman walked to the middle.
Tendulkar didn't settle during his innings, seemingly always distracted by problems with the sightscreen and troubled by the pace bowlers. He ducked into a bouncer from Broad (although responded with a flowing on-drive), offered a return chance to Tim Bresnan who couldn't hold on with his left hand and was very late on another delivery from Bresnan that wasn't far from being lbw. For once, though, it was spin not pace that ended the latest attempt at 100 hundreds.
Amid all this Dravid held firm. If anything, he started his innings with more positive intent than is often the case. That meant positive in defence, too, which sends an equally important message to bowlers not that boundaries were in short supply as he hit nine in a fifty that came from 93 deliveries.
Dravid apart, none of India's batsmen have shined whereas each of the opposition have played their part and here it was Bell's turn to join the double-hundred club, the first time England had made three in a series since 1938. His 20th boundary took him to his milestone and celebrated with a dismissive pull through midwicket. He continued to have few problems as he eased along against defensive fields until missing an aggressive sweep against Raina.
Although the game had already been taken well away from India, Sreesanth at least bowled with a bit more verve during the morning session and showed the passion that has been lacking from India's performances. When Anderson jabbed to second slip he was given a long stare by Sreesanth and he also accounted for Eoin Morgan who edged behind for 1, playing away from his body which is still an area of concern with Morgan's game at Test level.
At least Morgan's failure meant Ravi Bopara didn't have to spend another day watching his team-mates pile on the runs even if 487 for 5 didn't exactly represent a pressure situation. As at Edgbaston he looked jittery, but the nerves were settled a little as he clipped a boundary to fine leg and cut the medium-pace of RP Singh through point.
However, he should have been run out on 38 when there was confusion with Prior over a single to backward point but the throw from Sehwag to Amit Mishra was poor. Mishra, meanwhile, continued to struggle with figures of none for 170. A poor piece of fielding and a set of horror bowling figures were two apt ways to sum up India's series. It will take a huge effort to avoid 4-0 from here.