England tighten grip on fourth Test as India crumble

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport at The Oval
Fourth Test, The Oval (day three):
England 591-6 v India 103-5
Match scorecard
Graeme Swann celebrates the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar at The Oval
Swann celebrates the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar at The Oval

England tightened their grip on the fourth Test against India by posting a massive first innings total and tearing through the tourists' fragile top order.

Ian Bell took his score to a Test-best 235 as England batted positively from the outset to lift their first innings total to 591-6 before rain stopped play at the lunch interval.

The loss of 35 overs prompted Andrew Strauss to declare and England made the perfect start with the ball by removing Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman in the first four overs.

Graeme Swann then snared Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina and nightwatchman Ishant Sharma as India crumbled to 103-5, with Rahul Dravid standing tall through the mayhem to reach 57 not out.

Saturday's play summed up the series, with England flaying the tourists' bowling before underlining their supremacy with a clatter of wickets.

The contrast between the teams' attitude to preparation was summed-up during the rain delay.

While the England squad went through a lengthy warm-up routine, not a single India player set foot on the outfield to get loosened up for the re-start.

India began their innings effectively a man down with opener Gautam Gambhir receiving medical treatment for concussion after his head hit the ground when he dropped Kevin Pietersen on Friday afternoon.

Sehwag, out for a king pair at Edgbaston, scored his first runs of the series successive fours off James Anderson. But the last ball of the first over thudded into his pads and umpire Simon Taufel raised the finger.

Laxman was the next to fall, hanging the bat out to a ball from Stuart Broad that nipped off the seam and took the edge.

Dravid and Tendulkar steadied India, surpassing Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes as the most prolific partnership in Test history, before Swann made one of his most significant contributions of the series.

Surprised by some extra bounce, Tendulkar gloved a sweep shot into the air and was caught by Anderson scampering back from slip.

Raina looked out of sorts as he failed to score a run for 28 balls before groping forward to Swann and getting stumped.

And another memorable day for England was complete when Sharma looped a catch to Alastair Cook at short leg, leaving India still 488 runs behind.

Earlier, England had resumed on 457-3 looking to make rapid progress against a deflated India attack.

Bell, whose 350 partnership with Pietersen on Friday was England's highest against India, played and missed at the second ball of the day but clipped the third off his toes to the midwicket fence.

Anderson struck two fours before sending a thick edge off Sreesanth through to second slip and Morgan was caught behind in the same bowler's next over.

Moments later, Bell brought the ground to its feet by becoming the third England batsman of the series to score a double-hundred, eclipsing his previous Test best of 199 against South Africa at Lord's in July 2008.

He and Bopara (44 not out) added 61 in 78 balls before Bell attempted an uncharacteristically agricultural heave and was trapped in front of leg stump.

Warwickshire's Bell, who had been moved up the order for the match because of Jonathan Trott's absence with a shoulder injury, left to another standing ovation in recognition of a brilliant innings in which he passed 5,000 career Test runs.

"This was not far off a perfect innings. I played as well as I could do but I'd like to think I can do more in the years to come," said the 29-year-old.

"I've always said I had unfinished business at number three.

"In the future, I want to keep getting myself up the order in all forms of the game. I want to show people I am a much improved player."