England overcame the loss of the afternoon session to rain on Saturday to put India on the rack again and set themselves up for a series whitewash on the third day of the fourth and final Test at the Oval.
At the close of play India were reeling at 103 for five in reply to England’s 591 for six declared with Rahul Dravid, the only one of their celebrated batsmen to live up to his reputation this series, unbeaten on 57.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann, who has endured a unproductive series so far, had taken three for 27 from 10 overs when play finally ended on a sun-bathed evening.
During the morning session, Ian Bell completed his first Test double century and overtook team mate Alastair Cook at the top of the year’s Test runs’ table.
Bell, who resumed on 181, brought up his 200 with his 20th boundary, a deft glance to leg off Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. His previous best was 199 against South Africa at Lord’s three years ago.
He was finally lbw to Suresh Raina after more than eight hours at the crease with 23 fours and successive sixes off leg-spinner Amit Mishra. Bell has now compiled 950 runs this year with five centuries at an average of 118.75.
Ravi Bopara helped Bell add 61 for the sixth wicket and at the declaration he was unbeaten on 44.
Bopara, who has replaced the injured Jonathan Trott for the final two Tests of the English summer, failed in his only innings at Edgbaston where England went 3-0 up in the series and took over from India as the world’s top ranked side.
Nightwatchman James Anderson was the first batsman to depart on Saturday, caught for 13 at second slip by Vangipurappu Laxman off Sreesanth.
Sreesanth followed up in his next over with the wicket of Eoin Morgan for one on the day he was named as the England captain for a one-day match against his native Ireland. Morgan was caught behind by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Bell was again in exquisite touch, playing a glorious on-drive for four before he departed after missing a sweep against Raina’s occasional off-spin.
Virender Sehwag, who was dismissed first ball in both innings at Edgbaston after returning from injury, slashed successive boundaries off Anderson’s first over but was then palpably lbw to the final delivery.
Laxman did not linger, scoring only two before edging Stuart Broad to Matt Prior behind the stumps.
Sachin Tendulkar was hit on the helmet before he had scored, hit again on his arm and dropped by Tim Bresnan on 14, a difficult caught and bowled opportunity, after getting his customary standing ovation when he came to the crease.
He appeared to be settling down nicely in pursuit of his elusive 100th international century when he drove Swann wristily to the point boundary. But an attempted sweep off the next ball went from his glove to his shoulder and lobbed up behind the stumps where Anderson ran back to accept an easy catch.
Tendulkar and Dravid added 55 for the third wicket to overtake West Indies’ openers Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes as the world’s most prolific partnership. They have scored 6,520 runs between them since coming together for the first time in 1996.
Raina lingered for 42 minutes without getting off the mark when he was smartly stumped by Matt Prior. Swann turned the ball sharply past the left-hander and after several replays the third umpire Steve Davis decided no part of the batsman’s foot had been behind the line when Prior lifted the bails.
Nightwatchman Ishant Sharma lasted nine balls before he became Swann’s third victim, pushing a simple catch to Cook at short-leg.
Dravid was again pressed into the opening batsman’s role after Gautam Gambhir sustained a mild concussion when his head hit the ground in an unsuccessful attempt to catch Kevin Pietersen on Friday. An Indian team statement said he had undergone a medical examination on Saturday after complaining that he still felt unwell.