London: Marcus Trescothick marked his return to international cricket with a dashing 57 as England began the first day of the fourth and final Test against India in positive fashion.
At lunch, at The Oval on Thursday, England was 113 for one with Michael Vaughan on 42 not out off 78 balls including six fours and Mark Butcher two not out after captain Nasser Hussain had won the toss. Trescothick, who until last weekend had been out of action since July 17 because of a broken left thumb, opened his account with a cover-driven four off the third ball of the day from left-arm quick Zaheer Khan.
Zaheer struggled with his line and length early on, giving keeper Ajay Ratra, back in the side because of Parthiv Patel's knee injury, some difficult deliveries to take. At the other end, Ajit Agarkar repeatedly bowled too short, Trescothick and Vaughan both cashing in with a succession of pulled fours. Left-hander Trescothick, who had been rapped on the glove after being surprised by an earlier Agarkar short ball, was particular severe on the medium-pacer in the 10th over. Agarkar's first ball pitched half-way down and was struck so fiercely by Trescothick that it only just missed umpire David Orchard at square-leg. His next delivery was even shorter, Trescothick having the time to send it in front of mid-on.
Brief respite for the bowler followed with two better directed deliveries before another Trescothick boundary brought up England's fifty off only 61 balls. Agarkar's opening five overs cost 28 runs and he was replaced, in the 12th over, by off spinner Harbhajan Singh. Together with medium-pacer Sanjay Bangar, the pair checked England's progress.
And leg spinner Anil Kumble really slowed things down, his first over, the 20th of the innings, seeing the match's first maiden, Kumble bowling three in his five overs before the break. But when Zaheer returned he saw a full-length delivery driven straight back past him for four by Trescothick. The Somerset star then repeated the dose to bring up his fifty off 67 balls including eight fours. But Zaheer eventually had his revenge. Trescothick, trying to hook Zaheer from outside off-stump, failed to get over the top of the ball and saw Bangar, at deep backward square-leg, take a fine tumbling catch to leave England 98 for one in the 23rd over.
The series is currently level at 1-1 and a win for Saurav Ganguly's side will give India its first Test series triumph outside the sub-continent in 16 years since a 2- 0 success in England back in 1986. Before play began a presentation was made to Sachin Tendulkar to mark the India star's 100th Test. Tendulkar, 29, is the youngest player in cricket history to achieve this feat.