England chase whitewash, India need Sachin and survival
Outside Vauxhall tube station the touts were in heaven. There were no snaking queues down the Harleyford Road, like the final day at Lord’s in July. All tickets for this fifth day were sold last night online which meant fewer crowd control headaches but lots of opportunities for the scalpers.
India are 129 for 3 overnight, still 162 behind England, with Tendulkar 35 not out and the weather is set fair. England are chasing a clean sweep in a series of more than two Tests for the first time since 2004 when they beat West Indies 4-0. India last suffered a similar humiliation in Australia in 1999-2000. Unless India draw the Test they will slip to third in the world Test rankings.
At The Oval itself, friends were meeting up and mutual congratulations were bestowed: “We’re so lucky. You did such a good job to get the tickets.” The Surrey website crashed last night as demand overloaded. The ground was sold out within hours of the close of play.
Graeme Swann expects to do plenty of bowling today. Just how much will depend on whether India can summon the same stout(ish) resistance of yesterday.
The seamers will rotate from the Pavilion End and their controlling pressure, coupled with some variable bounce on this dry, toasty pitch, ought to prove too much for India.
But who knows? Maybe this is Sachin’s day. He has shown glimpses of his genius in most of innings in this series but ultimately England have shackled him into submission.
If he does make his hundredth hundred today it will feel a bit hollow. If he saves the Test for India then that carries some extra value but truthfully to reach such a milestone at the end of such a humiliating defeat for his team would be an unworthy, almost mawkish spectacle.
England could have had Tendulkar on 34, late yesterday evening, but strangely Matt Prior did not appeal for the stumping after he had whipped off the bails as the batsman’s back foot raised momentarily. Prior looked at the square-leg umpire but there was nothing vocal.
Swann was at his sarcastic best when discussing this curious non-dismissal: “There were only 12 eyes around the stumps, it is not exactly the brains trust there. I am surprised Matty Prior did not appeal because he usually appeals for everything.”
The ICC bigwigs are in town with the ludicrous mace in tow that signifies the status world no.1 Test team. It would be nice to think that there is some farcical Trooping the Colour-style ceremony where MS Dhoni has to kneel in front of Andrew Strauss. But in fact it will be Haroon Lorgat, the ICC’s chief executive, who will present the mace along with the chairman of the Reliance, who sponsor the ICC’s rankings.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John