Rain interrupts England charge

LONDON,  (Reuters) – Rain frustrated England’s bid for  a series whitewash over India yesterday when play was washed  out after lunch on the opening day of the fourth test at the  Oval.  
 
Openers Andrew Strauss (38 not out) and Alastair Cook (34  not out) put on 75 in an unbroken first wicket partnership  against an under-strength attack when the rain which had been  lurking around south London all morning finally descended.   
India, who relinquished their number one ranking to England  after being thrashed in the first three tests in the four-match  series, lost their best remaining bowler before the start of  play.   

Left-arm pace bowler RP Singh, who had not played a test for  more than three years, replaced Praveen Kumar, who injured his  ankle in the third test at Edgbaston.   

Initial reports said Kumar had dropped out after injuring  his right thumb in Birmingham but the Indian management issued a  statement during the scheduled tea interval saying his problem  was an injury to his left ankle.   
 
India’s leading bowlers, left-arm pace bowler Zaheer Khan  and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, are also injured.   
Strauss elected to bat after winning the toss, marking the  first time in the series that the opposition side has not been  inserted, and England’s only moment of real uncertainty before  lunch came when their captain was hit on the helmet by Ishant  Sharma.   
Strauss had made a late decision to pull a short-pitched  ball off the front foot when he was on 24.   

Singh took the new ball and an lbw appeal against Cook was  rejected when umpire Simon Taufel decided the ball was going  over the stumps. The left-hander edged the next delivery through  the slips to the boundary.  

Strauss also collected his first boundary through the slips  off Sharma who bowled an accurate line and occasionally troubled  the batsmen with late movement off the pitch.   

He was replaced at the Pavilion end by Shanthakumaran  Sreesanth and Strauss profited from a full pitched delivery on  the leg stump to take a boundary through mid-wicket.  

In the following over from Singh, Cook rocked on to the back  foot to smack the ball to the point boundary. Strauss on-drove  Sreesanth handsomely through mid-on for another four.   

Sreesanth strayed leg-side again and Cook took a further  boundary then played the shot of the morning, a cover-drive off  Sharma for four.   

The rain started to fall half an hour into the lunch break  and Australian umpires Taufel and Rod Tucker finally called play  off at 1600 GMT with the pitch area fully covered and the  floodlights on.
Scoreboard
England first innings   
A. Strauss not out                                                     38   
A. Cook not out                                                          34    
Extras (b 1 lb 2)                                                             3   
Total (for no wicket; 26 overs)                             75   
 Still to bat: I. Bell, K. Pietersen, E. Morgan, R. Bopara,  M. Prior, T. Bresnan, S. Broad, G. Swann, J. Anderson    
 Bowling (to date): R. Singh 10-3-24-0, I. Sharma 8-2-17-0,  S. Sreesanth 6-0-26-0, S. Raina 2-0-5-0   
India – Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid,  Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (captain),  Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, S Sreesanth, RP Singh.

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