London: Michael Vaughan was on the brink of his fourth Test century of the season as England built a strong foundation to its innings against India here at The Oval on Thursday.
At tea, on the first day of the fourth and final Test, England was 201 for one off 59 overs after captain Nasser Hussain had won the toss. Opener Vaughan was 92 not out off 179 balls including 12 fours and Mark Butcher 35 not out, the pair sharing an unbroken stand of 103 as they batted through the session. Vaughan has made three of his four Test hundreds this summer, starting with 115 and 100 in the Lord's series openers against Sri Lanka and India respectively. The Yorkshire player 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.
India's spinners Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble put a brake on the run-rate but England, assisted by occasional fielding errors, was rarely troubled having resumed on its lunch total of 113 for one off 29 overs. Yorkshire's Vaughan, 42 not out at lunch, brought up his fifty with an elegant back- foot cover-driven boundary off Ajit Agarkar. But when he had made 59, and England was 142 for one, Vaughan 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 Saurav 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.
Earlier Vaughan's opening partner Marcus Trescothick marked his return to international cricket with a dashing 57. Trescothick, who until last weekend had been out of action since July 17 because of a broken left thumb, looked in superb touch. But Trescothick, seemingly on course for a big score, then played a major part in his own downfall. 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 fine tumbling catch to leave England 98 for one in the 23rd over. 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 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.