When India's tour began, the enhancement of Sachin Tendulkar's legend was at hand. His 100th international hundred was but an innings away and the only conjecture seemed to be whether he would achieve it at Lord's in the first Test, which anybody with romance in their soul preferred, or might be forced to wait a match or so, since even gods have their limitations.
Either way, the panegyrics were prepared, the encomiums dusted off. They remain in storage along with the century. It was announced yesterday that Tendulkar's fifth tour of England has been brought to a premature end by an inflamed big toe. Presumably, the hobble apart, he will be glad to see the back of it.
Tendulkar still has 99 hundreds to his name, 51 of them in Tests, 48 in one-day internationals, and although that is 30 more than anybody else, he will have begun to wonder about the elusive 100th. This had become a forgettable trip for him as well as the side, who will now be without him for the rest of the series of five one-day internationals against England, the second of which is today.
The injury is likely to keep him out for between four and six weeks, which means he may return in time for the series with England at home in October. The surfaces, if not the constant hero worship, will suit him better.
There were glimpses of the "Little Master", no more, in recent weeks and he rarely got his feet working. Only at The Oval did he threaten to reach a century and his 91, disappointing as it was for the crowd when he was out, was decidedly twitchy.
Tendulkar's toe started playing up on Friday night before the first one-day international in Durham. It is a joint he had previously broken and a visit to a specialist in London yesterday morning confirmed that he was going home. He and Rohit Sharma, who broke a finger on Saturday, bring to eight the number of players who have had to leave early.
Parthiv Patel, who made 95 as Tendulkar's replacement in Durham, is now guaranteed to open for the rest of the series. Like his colleagues he can expect to be peppered with short balls. "They will come hard at me but I've worked on it. I'm glad I executed those plans in the first game, which is a start, but I want to continue that. You can't fill the shoes of Sachin Tendulkar, no matter who you are."
While Tendulkar must continue to wait for his 100th hundred – if he were to make it on his ground at Mumbai in the fourth of the matches against England on 23 October the roof would come off – there is a lesser milestone for an England batsman today. Ian Bell should play his 100th one-day innings.
Bell's 3,104 runs at an average of 34.09 and a strike rate of 71.68 compare more unfavourably than they should to Tendulkar's 18,111 at 45.16 and 86.22. There might be only one Sachin Tendulkar but despite the less singular name there are not many Ian Bells.
In this series, Bell is being given a chance at No 4 in Kevin Pietersen's absence. It does not take much to work out that a couple of high scores at a decent lick, which Pietersen has lacked lately, could force the selectors' hands.
Bell has batted in most positions for England and although he might be best at opener, he looked hapless at No 6 against Sri Lanka earlier in the summer. His attempts to slog in the late overs were utterly at odds with his pristine method.
"When I played up the order for England a few years ago I wasn't as good a player as I am now so it's nice to get that opportunity again," he said. "I could try to learn to slog but I have to play to my strengths and pick the gaps like I do in Test cricket."
Bell is so accomplished now that he should play all forms of the game for England. Graeme Swann trained yesterday and should return to the side in place of Samit Patel, though nothing is certain.
Rose Bowl details
England (possible) AN Cook (capt), C Kieswetter (wkt), IJL Trott, IR Bell, EJG Morgan, BA Stokes, TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, GP Swann, JM Anderson, JW Dernbach.
India (possible) MS Dhoni (capt, wkt), PA Patel, AM Rahane, RS Dravid, V Kohli, SK Raina, A Mishra, R Ashwin, PS Kumar, RV Kumar, MM Patel.
Pitch report Should the rain relent then the surface is likely to be faster than many and provide encouragement to England's bowlers to bang it in.
Umpires Billy Doctrove (WI), R Illingworth (Eng).
TV Umpire Marais Erasmus (SA)
Match Referee Jeff Crowe (NZ)
Weather Cloudy, very windy and mostly wet. Becoming drier and brighter in late afternoon.
Maximum temperature 19C
TV Sky Sports 1, HD1, 13:30-20:00
Highlights Channel 5 23.55-00.55
Radio BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, 13:45-20:00
Odds: England 8/11 India 10/7Reuse content