Rain checks England progress
Openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook ensured England made the perfect start to the fourth and final npower Test before rain wiped out much of the opening day at the Kia Oval.
The hosts, who will replace opponents India at the top of the ICC Test rankings regardless of the result this week, made steady progress in the morning session to reach 75 without loss after Strauss opted to make first use of a pitch that traditionally produces high scores.
England’s captain resisted the temptation to field first, despite the presence of considerable cloud cover, and his decision was soon justified.
Although Strauss was struck on the helmet by Ishant Sharma, the pick of India’s attack, he and Cook had few problems in reaching lunch unbeaten on 38 and 34 respectively.
Rain subsequently washed out the afternoon session and although an inspection was scheduled for 5.10pm, further showers ensured it did not take place as play was abandoned for the day.
England were able to keep faith with the players who recorded a crushing innings-and-242-run victory at Edgbaston last week to move 3-0 up in the series, with Lancashire seamer James Anderson shaking off a minor thigh strain to feature.
Praveen Kumar, India’s leading wicket-taker in the series, was ruled out with an injury to his left ankle and it was his replacement, RP Singh, who opened the bowling from the Vauxhall End.
An abysmal first over saw the left-arm seamer, who last played a Test in April 2008, spear a series of innocuous deliveries down the leg side and he showed little improvement as the session progressed.
Ishant represented more of a threat from the Pavilion End, but Strauss and Cook, operating with caution against the new ball, were not unduly troubled.
Both batsmen collected their first fours in somewhat unconvincing fashion, with edges through the vacant third man region, and it was not until Sreesanth was introduced in the 10th over that runs began to flow more freely.
Strauss collected fours in successive overs with authoritative shots through backward square-leg and down the ground, either side of Cook square-cutting Singh to the point fence.
Cook, who scored a sensational 294 in Birmingham, picked up another boundary after drinks when he clipped a Sreesanth half-volley behind square on the leg side.
However, there was a moment of discomfort for Strauss in the next over as he mis-judged a front-foot pull off Ishant and was struck on the peak of his helmet, leading to a short delay while a replacement was brought to the middle.
Strauss soon settled back into his stride with an off-driven four off the expensive Sreesanth, who finally beat the bat in his sixth over as Cook played an uncharacteristically loose drive outside off-stump.
The Essex batsman responded with the shot of the morning, driving Ishant on the up through the covers for his fourth four.
India introduced Suresh Raina prior to the interval, but he, along with the returning Singh, was unable to make an impact.