Rain prevents England building on solid start
Rain wiped out play after lunch on the opening day at The Oval, but during the two hours possible Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook formed a solid platform against a very disappointing India attack as England reached 75 without loss.
Given the way England have dominated this series it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that the only thing that will stop them completing a whitewash is the weather. Rain wiped out play after lunch on the opening day at The Oval, but during the two hours possible Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook formed a solid platform against a very disappointing India attack as England reached 75 without loss.
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This was as poorly as India had bowled all series as they wasted whatever help was on offer under overcast skies. There was barely a chance created during the session and the whole attitude portrayed by the visitors was of a team low on confidence and waiting for the series to finish. Defeat here will leave them third in the world rankings but it's difficult to see them limited England's in-form batting line-up with a better forecast for Friday.
RP Singh, on his return to the Test team after a three-year absence for the injured Praveen Kumar, didn't set a good tone with his opening over. The first ball was sprayed down the leg side and the batsmen were offered some gentle leg-stump deliveries to open their accounts. He was also about the same pace as Praveen, but with less swing, which wasn't entirely surprising considering he hadn't played first-class cricket since January.
Although a couple of early boundaries came to third man they were played with soft hands by Strauss and Cook. There was an alarming lack of intensity from India, both with the ball and in the field, as they failed to make any use of the overcast conditions. Sreesanth's first spell was poor with too many deliveries on leg stump which ensured the scoreboard kept ticking over with Cook, for the time being at least, taking his average over 50.
India showed slightly more energy during the second hour - although everything is relative - and Strauss had his most uncomfortable moment when he was struck on the helmet by an Ishant Sharma bouncer that took a chunk out of the lid. From that moment Strauss was more reluctant to get forward, but was still able to play a beautiful off drive against Sreesanth.
Ishant remained the pick of the three quicks, probing away outside off and finding a touch of troubling bounce, but there were few alarms for the openers. Even with two left-handers at the crease it was a surprise when Suresh Raina's part-time offspin was used ahead of Amit Mishra who removed Strauss at Edgbaston.
Earlier, James Anderson had been passed fit to take his place in the England side as they remained unchanged. A thigh niggle had created doubts about his fitness, but he came through a net on Wednesday so Graham Onions or Steven Finn, who left to play for Middlesex against Kent, were not required. On the evidence of the first session, and with the impact of the weather, Anderson might not be needed until well into the weekend.