Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook guided England to 75-0 without loss at lunch yesterday on day one of the fourth and final Test against a sluggish India side.
Having won the toss at The Oval, Strauss opted to bat in overcast conditions and reached 38 from 74 deliveries from a lethargic attack lacking penetration.
Of the four bowlers employed in the first session, only Ishant Sharma extracted much pace or movement to trouble the batsmen. He beat the bat of both openers and smashed Strauss’ helmet.
Cook, whose 294 last week set up the innings victory that helped England take a 3-0 series lead and clinch top spot in the Test rankings, reached 34 as the tourists continued to struggle with injuries and English conditions — as they have all tour.
Although captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side needs victory to salvage some pride after three demoralizing losses, Sreesanth and RP Singh barely troubled Strauss and Cook with their unchallenging medium pace.
With Zaheer Khan and Harbajan Singh already out injured, Praveen Kumar was absent from the attack after hurting his thumb in the third Test and was replaced by Singh for his first Test since April 2008.
Singh looked rusty, though after a first over featuring four bad deliveries down the leg side he did have a shout for lbw turned down in his next.
Singh struck Cook on the thigh of his back leg with a delivery that replays showed was heading a little high.
The ground staff at The Oval stood poised with the covers ready as the teams departed for lunch. The rain forecast for south London has largely skirted the ground but clouds completely covered the sky by the interval.