LONDON, August 19 – England’s hopes of completing a whitewash against India were hampered by the weather on Thursday, with rain preventing play after lunch on the first day of the fourth Test at The Oval.
England, at stumps, were stuck on their lunch score of 75 without loss after captain Andrew Strauss, who won the toss, defied the gloomy overhead conditions by opting to bat first on a typically good Oval pitch.
Strauss was 38 not out and fellow left-hander Alastair Cook 34 not out, with England already 3-0 up in this four-match series after a crushing innings and 242-run victory third Test victory at Edgbaston saw them replace India at the top of the ICC’s Test Championship table.
“The wicket looked pretty good, a bit of fluffy grass, brown in colour,” said England batting coach Graham Gooch.
“But whatever happens at the toss, you have to play good cricket,” the former England captain added.
Rain meant only 26 of the day’s scheduled 90 overs were bowled.
England’s most concerning moment of the morning came when Strauss, on 24, bailed out of a pull shot against an Ishant Sharma bouncer and saw the ball crash into his helmet, breaking a piece of the peak.
But, after calling for a replacement helmet, Strauss was not troubled again by a largely ineffectual India attack.
India, beset by injuries, suffered another when medium-pacer Praveen Kumar, one of their few successes this series, was ruled out before the toss.
It had been thought Kumar’s absence was due to a thumb injury while batting in the third Test.
But an India statement, issued only at tea, said Kumar had been ruled out with a left ankle injury sustained while bowling as England piled up a mammoth 710 for seven declared at Edgbaston.
Kumar was replaced by Rudra Pratap Singh, playing his first Test in more than three years and himself only on tour as an injury call-up for fellow left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan, who broke down in the series opener at Lord’s.
Singh, asked when he knew he was playing, told reporters: “In the morning after the warm-up when PK reported ‘I am not fully fit for the match’ and the captain and coach told me you are playing.
“I was a bit nervous to start with, so that’s why I bowled here and there in the first over but afterwards I gradually found my line and length,” added Singh, who finished the day with none for 24 from 10 overs.
Cook, fresh from his career-best 294 at Edgbaston, square-cut Singh for four and Strauss on-drove Shanthakumaran Sreesanth down the ground.
And Cook later drove Sharma on the up through the covers for a stylish boundary that left the fielders standing.
What turned out to be persistent rain started to fall during the lunch break and play was abandoned for the day at 5pm local time (1600GMT).
But as England needed fewer than four days to win both the second and third Tests, they still had every chance of completing a clean sweep.