London: Michael Vaughan's fourth Test century of the season guided England to a commanding position against India here at The Oval on Thursday.
At stumps, on the first day of the fourth and final Test, England were 336 for two off 90 overs after captain Nasser Hussain had won the toss. Opener Vaughan was 182 not out off 266 balls including 27 fours, having batted for over six hours. John Crawley was 16 not out. Yorkshire's Vaughan made 115 and 100 in the Lord's series openers against Sri Lanka and India respectively. He followed that up with a career-best 197 in the drawn second Test against India at Trent Bridge and looked in equally good form here. Vaughan, 92 not out at tea, showed no signs of nerves afterwards, cutting leg-spinner Anil Kumble for four to go to 97. And he brought up his fifth Test hundred in 23 matches with a single against off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar adding to India's error count with a misfield at mid-off. That run saw Vaughan become only the sixth player in history to make a quartet of Test hundreds in a single season. He followed fellow England batsmen Herbert Sutcliffe (1929), Denis Compton (1947), Allan Lamb (1984) and Graham Gooch (1990) as well as Australia great Don Bradman (1930). And his innings also saw Vaughan become just the third England batsman after Ken Barrington in 1961-62 and Gooch in 1990 to make three centuries in a series against India. But when Vaughan had made 59, and England were 142 for one, he was almost run out in the 36th over. He drove medium-pacer Agarkar and set off for a single. But Mark Butcher was not interested. Vaughan turned round and dived back towards the batting crease, wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra taking off the bails following India captain Sourav Ganguly's throw from mid-off. South African umpire David Orchard at square leg signalled for replay assistance and television pictures suggested Vaughan had just made his ground. But Vaughan did receive otherwise sound support from Butcher in a second-wicket stand of 174.However, when the Surrey left-hander had made 54, he was out in unusual fashion. Sweeping against Harbhajan, the ball bounced off his pad and hit the back of his bat before looping to Rahul Dravid at slip, England 272 for two in the 74th over. Butcher, in front of his home crowd, had faced 145 balls including six fours. His departure brought in Crawley, Hussain dropping himself down from his usual number four spot after a long wait in he pavilion. India took the new ball as soon as it was available, after 80 overs, with England 305 for two but further wickets eluded them. Earlier opening batsman Marcus Trescothick marked his return to international cricket with a dashing 57. Somerset southpaw Trescothick, who until last weekend had been out of action since July 17, because of a broken left thumb, and had not played a Test since the third match of the Sri Lankan series in June, batted well but got himself out. Trying to hook left-arm quick Zaheer Khan from outside off-stump, Trescothick failed to get over the top of the ball and saw Sanjay Bangar, at deep backward square leg, take a tumbling catch. Trescothick faced 70 balls including nine fours.The series is currently level at 1-1 and a win for Ganguly's side will give India their 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, who bowled the last over of the day, to mark the India star's 100th Test. Tendulkar, 29, is the youngest player in cricket history to achieve this feat.
Scorecard of Test 4 Day 1
Vaughan, Butcher put England in charge at tea