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Thank heavens!

With things looking increasingly gloomy for India at lunch, the visitors were rescued from more misery by rain on the first day of the fourth and final Test. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports. Score card

cricket Updated: Aug 19, 2011 01:47 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal

With things looking increasingly gloomy for India at lunch, the visitors were rescued from more misery by rain on the first day of the fourth and final Test. Their bowlers had looked clueless and India appeared to be in for a long haul in the field as England seized the initiative early to be 75 for no loss at the break.

The Indian dressing room must have heaved a collective sigh of relief when the heavens opened up and prevented any further action in the day. In what has been a horror series for India, the visitors endured another embarrassing session of play on Thursday morning.

As if the humiliation of the first three defeats was not enough, India put up such a lethargic performance in the first session that it was being seen as an insult to the game by the greats present at the venue. Feasting on a mediocre bowling attack, it was a perfect start for England.

Openers start well
The conditions were overcast, but the home team openers were untroubled. The only moment of alarm came when Ishant Sharma banged in short in the 15th over and Strauss' clumsy attempt to pull ended in him taking a hit on his helmet. The only damage though was the blow taking a big chunk of the helmet.

Despite the one-sided nature of the contests so far, a capacity crowd turned up at The Oval, hoping to see some quality cricket from the top two teams of the world. They must have rubbed their eyes in disbelief at the mediocrity of the Indian bowlers. The left-hand opening combination of England had no problem negotiating the gentle swing of RP and Ishant Sharma as well as the wayward S Sreesanth.

Unlucky Dhoni
Dhoni's luck with the toss also seemed to have run out after the first two Tests. On a wicket he would have really loved to bat, he lost the toss and was asked to take the field.

Apart from being a good batting wicket, he would have liked to give his tired bowlers some extra rest to recover both mentally and physically from the Edgbaston workload. Instead, England spearhead James Anderson will have the advantage of resting an extra day.

"At the start we struggled with our line and length, but gradually we settled down," said RP after the day's play.

England's strength in bowling has been attacking as a pack. RP admitted the Indian bowling unit needed to work better in tandem. "We are a closely knit unit, but we need to come together as team," he said.

About his poor first over, the left-arm pacer said: "I was playing after nearly three years and was a bit nervous at the start. Hence I bowled here and there."

Rain to play a role
Rain is expected to be a big factor in this Test with prediction of wet weather on the fourth and five days. It means England also face a race against time in their ambition to complete a whitewash. Batting coach Graham Gooch said the home team would not allow it to affect their focus.

"The team will only be interested to get on the field at 11 am and build a platform for the latter batsmen to put a big score so that when the opposition bats, they are under pressure," said Gooch.

Strauss's decision
In the first three Tests, the captain has chosen to field first in a bid to exploit the conditions. MS Dhoni at Lord's and Trent Bridge and Strauss at Edgbaston. The conditions here were overcast too, hence some were surprised by skipper Andrew Strauss's decision to bat first on winning the toss. Defending the decision, Gooch said: "If Sun would have been out, there would have been no conjecture. The wicket is looks good for batting and the toss sometimes is inconsequential, you have to play well."