England win toss and bat as they go for 4-0 clean sweep
Good morning from a cloudy, breezy Oval. The weather forecast isn’t too clever for today but it’s dry for now and play starts on time.
England have won the toss – that’s 2-2 for the series – and bat first though Andrew Strauss said he thought hard about the decision because of the overhead conditions. They are also unchanged with Jimmy Anderson passed fit after his minor thigh injury.
There might have been a temptation to rest him but England know that a win in this Test is more valuable in terms of rankings points than matches in their forthcoming series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the India captain, confirmed he would have batted first too and announced one change from the side that lost by an innings and 242 runs.
Praveen Kumar, who took 15 wickets at 29 in the first three Tests, is out because of a thumb injury sustained batting at Edgbaston. RP Singh, the left-armer who was called up as replacement for Zaheer Khan originally, comes in for his first Test in over three years.
He took 12 wickets at 28 in the 2007 series in England but his figures from his last four Test innings don’t make pretty reading: 57-4-249-0.
“You can’t control injuries,” said Dhoni at the toss, which might be true in the specific case of Kumar, but actually is the sort of lazy, laissez-faire thinking that has got India into the mire from which they are this week trying to escape with a modicum of dignity intact.
England are going for only their second ever whitewash in a series of four matches or more, the last being in 2004 when they followed up a 3-0 win over New Zealand with a 4-0 thrashing of West Indies 4-0.
Their record at The Oval is good. They lost last year to Pakistan but their last defeat before that was in 2001 to Australia. In between there have been five wins and three draws. The last five Tests against India here have been drawn and India’s only win here was in 1971.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John