England dominate as India crumble again

England 591-6 v India 103-5
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The Independent Online

Irresistible England again dominated India with bat and ball, and defied the Oval rain, to stay on course for an npower series whitewash.

Ian Bell (235) completed his maiden double-hundred on the third morning of the fourth Test - and then after bad weather wiped out the afternoon and forced a declaration on 591 for six, England's pace attack made immediate inroads.

Rahul Dravid (57no) and Sachin Tendulkar, who today became the most productive partnership in Test history, dug in from 13 for two during a determined stand of 55.

But even after Dravid's 93-ball half-century, Graeme Swann (three for 27) ensured a close-of-play 103 for five put India in a vulnerable if not yet perilous position.

They were in instant trouble when Virender Sehwag, who made a king pair in his team's innings defeat at Edgbaston last week, this time dispatched two of his trademark off-side fours off the back foot before falling to the last ball of the first over from James Anderson.

England's pace spearhead produced a delivery which snaked in rather than away and bamboozled Sehwag lbw.

Dravid, opening in place of Gautam Gambhir after the latter suffered concussion falling in the field yesterday, was joined only briefly by VVS Laxman.

Stuart Broad put one in the wickets column at the start of an impressive new-ball spell when a little extra bounce and away movement through the air - after the ball had pitched - found Laxman's outside edge.

India were batting under cloudless skies, but Dravid and Tendulkar needed all their experience and world-class skill to see off Broad in particular.

He hit Tendulkar on the helmet, ducking into a bouncer before he had scored, and again on the body.

Then just when it seemed the 'old firm' had drawn England's sting, Swann struck with a little extra bounce as Tendulkar shaped to sweep and lobbed a catch off glove and arm over the wicketkeeper's head for Anderson to run round from slip and take an easy catch.

Suresh Raina tried to close out the day with Dravid but managed only a 29-ball duck, before Matt Prior brought off a smart stumping off Swann - who then made short work of nightwatchman Ishant Sharma too.

Bell had helped England score another 134 runs in only 30 overs this morning, putting them in position to crack on again in what they probably hoped would be an hour's batting after lunch.

But rain swept over the ground in the interval - and by the time play was again possible, at 4.50pm local time, it made no sense for England to continue batting when 20 India wickets were needed in seven scheduled sessions.

Unbeaten on 181 overnight, Bell saw two early wickets fall at the other end - and needed 45 minutes to go past his previous-best 199.

He reached his 200 with his 20th four, deflected down to fine-leg of Shantha Sreesanth from the 331st ball he faced.

By then England had lost first Anderson, squeezing an edge at a full-length ball to second slip off Sreesanth (three for 123) - who had already voiced his displeasure at the nightwatchman's presence and stood arms folded in defiance as his victim made his way off past him.

Eoin Morgan arrived at the crease shortly before it was announced he will captain England for the first time in next week's one-off one-day international against Ireland in his native Dublin.

He managed only one run by way of celebration, though, before edging a drive behind to give Sreesanth his third wicket - and second in successive overs.

Bell ploughed on, ensuring the run rate England needed after losing two sessions on day one of this match to rain, until he missed an attempted sweep at off-spinner Raina to go lbw.

Among the statistics he had piled up in a near eight-and-a-half hour stay, he went past 5,000 Test runs this morning and surpassed team-mate Alastair Cook as the world's most prolific Test runscorer of the calendar year so far.

In the likelihood that he will not bat again here, and with no more England Tests scheduled before Christmas, Bell seems set to finish 2011 with 950 runs at a remarkable 118.75.

In his absence in the 40 minutes before lunch, Ravi Bopara (44no) and Prior kept England moving - only to be denied further gains when the bad weather arrived.

But after they set about India with the ball too, they could still be optimistic about a fourth successive victory at some point over the next two days.

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