21st over: England 65-0 (Strauss 32, Cook 30) Sharma finally switches to around the wicket, which makes sense because he can't really get an LBW from over the wicket. An otherwise good over ends with an overpitched delivery that Cook drives authoritatively for four. "Can I put forward the case for the defence of my adopted home city?" says Andrew Jefford. "It may well be expensive, the transport may be pretty rubbish at times and the Shoreditch Hipsters begin to grate after just five minutes, but isn't London mainly brilliant? I'm not going to trot out the 'capital of the world' claptrap, but the truth is that a significant proportion of the globe's population would love to live here – current residents should stop griping and realise how lucky they are. If it's that bad, move to Shropshire and give me a call next time a Test match is being played on the local village green."
20th over: England 61-0 (Strauss 32, Cook 26) This is Test cricket in name but not nature. It's far too easy for England, really. Saying which, Sreesanth beats Cook with a fuller, wider delivery that tempts Cook into the drive. India's over rate has again been woeful, with 20 overs in 100 minutes. Those eejits behind the bowler's arm haven't helped I suppose. "At the start of this series, Ishant looked like a proper rock star," says Harry Tuttle. "Now he looks like some guy who sells knock-off CDs at a market stall. I can't help but add that this reflects India's trajectory throughout this tour."
19th over: England 60-0 (Strauss 32, Cook 25) Sharma beats Cook again. He has comfortably been the pick of the bowlers this morning, even if we are in taller-than-Devito territory. Here's Kim Thonger: "I am idly wondering, whilst perusing other Guardian articles today, whether the Duckworth'Lewis Method might usefully be adapted for magistrates and judges to implement fair sentences for rioters in particular and wrongdoers in general?" Better still, how about the system they used for the 1992 World Cup? Looting Argos? £50 fine. Stealing from JJB Sports? 22 years for one ball.
18th over: England 57-0 (Strauss 31, Cook 23) Sreesanth shapes to throw the ball back at Strauss, which brings to mind that old Shane Warne quote: 'Allan Border always told me that, if I was bowling badly, pick a fight with the opposition'. Strauss doesn't really do fights, and responds with a calm and classy drive through mid off for four. Meanwhile, Bull has taken time off from talking about strippers at The Oval to send this nice story about Ali Brown. "On the subject of Ali Brown, he came out with one of the sweetest and most succinct explanations about why he had chosen to retire that I've heard: 'I always believed that the day my age exceeds my batting average it would be time to consider calling time on my career.'" Insert your own 'I retired in the womb' joke here.
17th over: England 53-0 (Strauss 27, Cook 23) We missed an over due to technical problems – that's not a euphemism; this isn't 2006 and it's not a Saturday morning – and you missed a couple of excellent deliveries from Sharma that beat Strauss and then Cook. That's about all. "While we're on preposterous heroism for charity..." begins Peter Gettins. "A bunch of my colleagues had a night of boxing to raise money for Help For Heroes last week – none of them are proper fighters but have been in training (with varying degrees of dedication) for anything between 20 minutes and a year. Some of it was quite horrible. So far the pot stands at over £4,000 raised, 2.5 pints of blood lost, and a concussion. If anyone out there would like to see blokes having a paddy and make a contribution at the same time, there are a couple of photo books available on Blurb and all profits go to the charity, naturally.
15th over: England 48-0 (Strauss 24, Cook 21) Sharma has smashed Strauss's helmet. That was a very strange incident. Strauss shaped to hook an excellent bouncer and then pulled out of the stroke, taking his eye off the ball. The ball bashed into the helmet, sending part of the peak flying. As Shane Warne says on Sky, Strauss is really lucky that the ball didn't sneak through between the peak and the grille, because it would have done serious damage. "Nice to see Steve Waugh mentioned," says William Vincent. "A great fighting batsman, decent bowler and excellent captain, gimlet eyed and tough as teak. The quintessential Australian cricketer, in fact, and number one pick for the 'If I were in a trench and the Prussians were attacking, who would I like to be my platoon sergeant' prize. Who also raises a fortune for charity in for Indian children and for kids with rare diseases. A truly fine man. Why he hasn't been knighted is an utter mystery."
14th over: England 48-0 (Strauss 24, Cook 21) Mr Liz Hurley enters the Sky box just as Cook pings Sreesanth through square leg for four again. "The problem with London is not so much that it is particularly bad per se, it's that it's so overrated," says Jamie Kirkaldy. "London likes to view itself as operating in the Premier League of international cities (New York, Paris, Barcelona, etc) but the truth is the transport system shuts down at midnight, you'll be lucky to get a drink after two without going to a club and it takes the best part of an hour to get from one place to another. That's the reason it's so bloody expensive: to convince the people who live there that they're having a good time. 'Let's see, I commute for 45 minutes in an underground cattle truck, I can't afford a mortgage and I no longer see anyone who lives beyond a two mile radius of my flat, but, hey, this bottle of Japanese lager has just cost me £4.80 so I must be living some kind of uber-trendy, 21st-century hipster lifestyle, right?'" I think I hear what you're saying: STOP LONDON.
13th over: England 43-0 (Strauss 23, Cook 17) A maiden from RP Singh to Cook. He hasn't bowled inaccurately, apart from the first over, but it has all been very innocuous. "Ali Brown is the only person who I've ever written a fan letter to," says Ian Burch. "It was a tear stained one after Surrey terminated his contract. It broke my heart. I once found myself standing next to him at a mobile betting shop at Horsham during a rain break, but I was too shy to speak to him. I regret it to this day. My hero Ali Brown." That's the saddest and most beautiful email anyone has ever sent to the OBO.
12th over: England 43-0 (Strauss 23, Cook 17) Sreesanth has been a bit too full and a bit too straight, and that allows Strauss to push-drive splendidly through mid on for four. Often, on days like this, we say that batsmen should book in for bed and breakfast; here England could buy the bloody property. They look absurdly comfortable. "London became far too self-congratulating around the time people started going out in Shoreditch and Hoxton and wearing ironic quiffs in their hair," says Fiona Dunlop. It's very true. When the book is written on the demise of London, they will justly conclude that it was all because that fella from Travis started to go bald.
11th over: England 37-0 (Strauss 18, Cook 16) RP Singh's top speed this morning is 82.2mph, his average speed a miserable 79.9. When he pitches a touch short, Cook slaps a cut decisively for four. That shot takes Cook's average to precisely 50. If England are bowled out today, I will eat the highest hat. "You're right, the Aussies did used to say that about Harmison," says Dan Barker. "But wasn't it just to con us into repeatedly picking him?" Arf. Praise from the Aussies was always worth so much more than praise from an Englishman. And if it came from Steve Waugh, you had it laminated, framed and blu-tacked to the wall. I remember Waugh praising Paul Collingwood in 2001, when he couldn't buy a run in his debut one-day series, and also Mark Ealham during the 1997 Ashes. It made me go all warm and fuzzy.
10th over: England 33-0 (Strauss 18, Cook 12) Sreesanth replaces Sharma, who bowled a decent first spell of 4-1-7-0. Strauss clips a couple of full deliveries off his pads, the first for three and the second for four. England look really comfortable. "If the braying Surrey idiotholes in block four, row 22, seats 96-98 mention one more time how much money they spent last night in a strip club then I won't be held responsible for my actions," says Suzanne Hall. "Apologies, in advance, for bringing the spirit of cricket into disrepute." Ah, I didn't know Bull and Selvey had gone to the cricket on their day off. Also, what if they are reading this as well? Unlikely I know, with our readership totalling 7, but I don't want the OBO to be the catalyst for an international incident a brief outbreak of tutting with the defiant avoidance of eye contact by all parties.
9th over: England 25-0 (Strauss 11, Cook 11) Strauss drops RP Singh at this feet and steals a single, then Cook pushes a couple through the covers. We haven't had a boundary in front of square yet, just a couple to third man. England could get millions here; India's fielders already look like they can't be bothered. In a way, such brazen indolence is quite admirable. Here's Jon Ware. "The worst one of those 'Maybe it's because you're a Londoner' posters says, I kid you not, 'Maybe you carry a designer handbag with a price-tag that could not only feed a family of five for six months, but probably fit one in too.' Still not convinced it isn't intended as an unholy, self-loathing parody of some kind." I used to think Nathan Barley was a satire. I didn't realise it was a documentary.
8th over: England 22-0 (Strauss 10, Cook 9) A wobbling delivery from Sharma goes straight Dhoni for a bye. "What's happened there?" says Bumble. "It's almost as if it's electric." Dhoni has had a terrible tour with the gloves, although he's not the first overseas keeper to have such problems. This is a very odd start. It's like a county game. I can't remember hearing a crowd so quiet on the first morning of a Test. Sharma has a half shout for LBW against Cook; it pitched outside leg. He's bowling pretty well here. "'The Last Test Of The Summer' would be a lavish Stephen Poliakoff drama about the implosion of a dysfunctional cricketing and espionage dynasty of minor aristocrats set against the industrial unrest of the late 1970s," says Sam Firth. "Timothy Spall would play Bill Nighy, and Joely Richardson would be revealed to be Viv Richards' daughter. Baftas all round."
7th over: England 20-0 (Strauss 10, Cook 9) Strauss digs out an attempted yorker from RP Singh. A maiden. The ball has moved a smidgin in the air and off the seam, no more than that. If England get to lunch unscathed they will have the chance to bat big over the next two days. "I have just got what I want too," says Howard Stevenson. "For twelve years myself and a lady called Rachel have chased, flirted and pursued each other. Unfortunately for 11 years and 6 months of that, one or the other of us was either married or living with someone. Neither of us would play away from home. Then recently we found we were both single at the same time. Finally, after meeting not long after the Oval Test of 1999, the nadir of English cricket, we are together. Happy days!" This is lovely, but does it mean you have to split up if England are knocked off top spot?
6th over: England 20-0 (Strauss 10, Cook 9) Cook is beaten by a good delivery from Sharma, angled across from over the wicket, and nods respectfully at the bowler. I think one of the Australian batsmen once said that, even when he was bowling filth, they never really felt comfortable facing Steve Harmison. I suspect the same might be true of Sharma. "Nice to see a mention of Massingberd," says Peter Hill, "which triggered memories of his suitably masterly obituary: 'He was a great trencherman. After breakfasting at the Connaught Hotel in 1972, he was particularly proud when the head waiter shimmied up to inform him that he had eaten the biggest breakfast
ever served, the previous record holder being King Farouk I of Egypt.'"
5th over: England 18-0 (Strauss 9, Cook 9) This is some low-key Test cricket. The crowd are hushed, not so much with anticipation as confusion as to what this all means now that the series has been won. "I'm with Victoria Woods," says Ryan Dunne. "The whole concept of the 'Walk of Shame' (in non-cricketing contexts at least) is fundamentally flawed. At uni, for example, it was used to refer to e.g. a lady who had hooked up with a gentleman after a lecture and so attended the next day's lecture in the same clothing (one hopes Febrezed, at least). Shame!? Sounds a lot more fun than those who turn up in different clothing but spent the night before in front of the computer or having the proverbial Pot Noodle and a [that'll do - imaginary ed]." Febreze as a verb? Brilliant. I quickly Googled Febreze to check its spelling, and discovered this. The deviancy in society these days.
4th over: England 15-0 (Strauss 9, Cook 6) An inside edge means that Sharma has an LBW shout against Strauss caught in the throat. Strauss steers an edge for four later in the over. India are bowling pretty well now – working the areas, putting it in the right channels, and other mashed-up cliches. England will just bat time, as they should in such conditions. It's an underrated part of this team, actually, the ability of the top three in particular to get runs for those lower down the order by batting time. "On my way to the Oval, I have just witnessed the smuggest advertising poster I have ever seen," chirps my colleague David Hopps. "It is displayed on the Victoria Line at Green Park and is entitled the Londoner and is an sick-making exercise in self-congratulation. 'Your friends outside London may struggle for something interesting to do,' it states, 'but you are far more culturally aware.' If ever a poster amplified the damaging social split between the capital and the rest of the nation this was it. However, I decided that it was time to put my non-metropolitan bias aside and face the awful truth. Emerging from Vauxhall tube station, I walked up to a man talking out of the side of his mouth and awaited cultural enlightenment. 'Buy Or Sell, Buy Or Sell,' he uttered. I fear I did not understand his cultural slant but I presume it was a comment on the materialism that has caused such tensions in our nation. The Jonah Marks says it will be raining before long and persist for much of the day. We may have time to visit a museum later." The irritating thing about London is that it doesn't have to be like this. London should be the best thing that has ever happened to anyone ever. But at some point over the last ten years, and I am not nearly smart enough to know when or why, London disappeared so far up its own Central Line that it's hard to see it ever emerging again.
3rd over: England 11-0 (Strauss 5, Cook 6) RP Singh gets a couple on the cut strip, and then he has a big LBW shout when Cook is turned down by a lovely delivery that snaps away off the seam. It was too high, and Simon Taufel said not out. The next ball is edged low through the slips for four by Cook. A much better over from RP Singh.
"Now, here we are at The Last Test of Summer, which surely demands to be the title of a book or at least a song," says John Starbuck. "What should they contain? Either way, the word plangent is probably needed somewhere."
2nd over: England 6-0 (Strauss 4, Cook 2) Ishant Sharma slants a good delivery across Strauss and past the outside edge. Apart from that scorching Sunday-morning spell at Lord's, he has been disappointing in this series. He is better than an average of 34.03, which is what he currently has to show for 37 Tests. That was a decent enough first over. "Personally," says Victoria Woods, "I've always been a fan of referring to the walk of shame as the 'stride of pride.'" Pride? Pride? But isn't Victoria a girl's name? Sorry, that's a diabolical attmept at humour. England get to No1 in the world and the OBO is already resting on their laurels.
1st over: England 4-0 (Strauss 3, Cook 1) RP Singh is going to open the bowling. He hasn't even played first-class cricket since January. Indian readers will know more, of course, but he looked the part in 2007 and it's odd that he hasn't played Test cricket for over three years. His first delivery is one of the filthiest things I've ever seen in my life: miles down the leg side, and at about 70mph. Dhoni does well to save four leg byes. What comes before a loosener? It's a very slow start, and Strauss pulls away before the next delivery because various clowns are walking behind the bowler's arm. Beefy utters the immortal words "I'm sorry... but this is ridiculous." He's right. They're all walking round and smiling like it's the funniest thing in the world. This is a Test match, you abject morons. Have some respect. A weird first over, containing a series of deliveries on or outside leg stump from RP Singh, takes more than seven minutes. "If you read two things today," says Gary Naylor, "you could do a lot worse than read this
beautiful piece by the late Hugh Massingberd in praise of Ally Brown, who
announced his retirement yesterday. I wonder how he would have got on under the Andies' regime?"
Hat update Ah, Bull informs me that a chap promised to bid a pound for every run Cook scored in the last Test, so in fact it's £294. A Daddy auction bid.
The black-dog days are over, for now at least. But thanks to YouTube you can still revisit them. The marvellous Rob Moody has kindly uploaded one of the great dismissals of English cricket: Chris Broad being suckered by a disgusting 14mph slower ball from Merv Hughes in 1989.
A couple of other gems from Rob's video archive: Geoff Boycott running out Derek Randall at Trent Bridge, and Beefy deliberately running out Boycott during a Test in New Zealand. Beautiful.
An email "With the series and No 1 status in the bag, am I the only one who was slightly disappointed that Andy Flower didn't have the lateral thought capacity to select a team for the Oval Test comprised solely of players that took a hammering in the dark days of the eighties and nineties?" says Jamie Kirkaldy. "For no other reason than the thought of future cricket historians looking back at when England first took the field as the best cricket nation on the planet and the teamsheet read: Maynard, Stephenson, Hick, Ramprakash, Crawley, Irani, Downton, Illingworth, Mullally, Such, Malcolm."
On that note, Jonny Sultoon suggested picking an XI from the also-rans who helped England go from bottom of the Wisden World Championship in 1999 to top of the ICC Test Championship. Here's the full list of those who played no more than five Tests for England in that time. Arise Sir Kabir.
I want me hat Now, regular readers of the OBO will be aware that we are auctioning an England hat signed by the three Brisbane centurions. All funds go to the Mines Advisory Group in Sri Lanka. Our colleague Steph Fincham will be cycling across Sri Lanka next year, a preposterously heroic act that you can sponsor, should you so wish.
The bidding for the hat ends with the last ball of the series. It has currently reached £278; if you wish to top that, send in your bid and we will post an update every morning of the Test.
England have won the toss and will bat first. Andrew Strauss says he was tempted to bowl, as it's pretty grim down south London, but the pitch is usually a belter at the Oval.
Jimmy Anderson is fit, so England are unchanged, while India bring in RP Singh for the injured Praveen Kumar. RP Singh was excellent when India won over here in 2007; it's surprising to see that he hasn't played a Test since April 2008.
England Strauss (c), Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Morgan, Bopara, Prior (wk), Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson.
India Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Raina, Dhoni (c/wk), Mishra, Sharma, Sreesanth, RP Singh.
If you only read one thing today… make it this, a charming and lyrical piece about rediscovering Test Match Special.
Preamble So what happens now? You don't need to have been a lovestruck teenager to realise that getting what you want can be the scariest thing of all. For England, this Test is the morning after the life-altering night before, albeit without the walk of shame (why was it called that? I suppose 'the walk of mildly intrusive birdsong that serves to exacerbate an already nippin heid' didn't have quite the same ring). English sport isn't really geared for sustained success, what with the minuscule handicap of, y'know, its inherent Englishness, but this team might be different.
Comparisons with the 1980s West Indies and the Millennium Australians are hideously premature, and were calmly poo-poohed by the impossibly impressive Andy Flower. Equally, however, there is compelling evidence that this may develop into something more enduring than in 2005, when we had the the mother of all one-night stands but not much thereafter. (That said, England were desperately unlucky with injuries, and were also shunted off course by freakish collapses at Multan and Adelaide, so it's a little unfair to simply say that they took their off the red round thing.)
England's first task is to complete a 4-0 whitewash. There are a number of reasons for them to maintain the intensity of previous Tests: to show they can maintain the intensity of previous Tests now that they have reached the top of the mountain; to seal the most brutal whitewash of high-class opposition since South Africa demolished Australia 4-0 in 1969-70; to keep dear old Mo Mentum happy; and to push further ahead in the ICC Test Championship.
The dead rubber is dead. The Test Championship means that points are available for every Test, and the difference between victory and defeat is significant for England and India. Here is how the table will look depending on the result of this match: