LONDON: England will look to cement their place as the world’s number one Test side by completing a whitewash of India when the fourth and final match of their series starts at The Oval today.
India arrived atop the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test Championship table but progressively larger defeats - by 196 runs at Lord’s, 319 runs at Trent Bridge and a massive innings and 242 runs at Edgbaston - have left them 3-0 down.
Injuries and a lack of preparation time in English conditions have played their part, with India’s much-vaunted top order having failed to fire. England opener Alastair Cook’s Test best 294 at Edgbaston was a larger score than the tourists have managed in any innings this series.
But now their fans must hope a match at The Oval, where 40 years ago India secured a victory that saw them win their first series in England, will see the tourists restore some pride.
England, however, want to finish with a flourish as they begin their quest to be regarded as one of the best sides of all time. Doubts surrounding James Anderson’s participation in the final Test also seemed to be fading as the fast-bowler took part in the practice session. However, a final decision would be taken today, according to captain Andrew Strauss.
Meanwhile, spinner Graeme Swann, who has played a limited role in the series so far, said that the hosts wanted to do complete the demolition.
“We want to do ourselves justice in the last game, we did that very well in the Ashes,” explained Swann. “Having retained them, we gave our best performance of the series in the last game and we’re looking to emulate that. It wouldn’t be much of a team if we just fell to pieces and threw it all away.”
On the other hand, India have injury concerns over fast-bowler Praveen Kumar, one of their few successes on this tour, and will be desperate for him to be fit.
The Oval Test could also be the last in England for 38-year-old batting greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, the two highest run-scorers in Test history.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.