By Julian Guyer
London: Aug 18, 2011
England will look to cement their place as the world's number one Test side by completing a whitewash of India when the fourth and final match of their series starts at The Oval on Thursday.
India arrived atop the ICC's Test Championship table but progressively larger defeats, by 196 runs at Lord's, 319 runs at Trent Bridge and a massive innings and 242 runs at Edgbaston, have left them 3-0 down.
Injuries and a lack of preparation time in English conditions have played their part, with India's much-vaunted top order having failed to fire in this campaign -- England opener Alastair Cook's Test best 294 at Edgbaston was a larger score than the tourists have managed in any innings this series.
But now their fans must hope a match at The Oval, where 40 years ago India secured a victory that saw them win their first series in England, will see the tourists restore some pride.
England, however, want to finish with a flourish as they begin their quest to be regarded as one of the best sides of all time.
For those such as Kevin Pietersen, a member of the side that lost the Ashes 5-0 in Australia in 2006/07, the memory of that humiliating defeat remains a powerful incentive.
"I played against the Australia team in 2006/07 and I promise that every day we were not looking forward to it because we were going to get dealt with," former England captain Pietersen recalled.
"That is what I hope we can do to opposition, but it is going to be tough," the South Africa-born batsman added.
"Potentially, yes, opposition will be fearful of us."
England head into the series final with strike bowler James Anderson, who is struggling with a thigh problem, an injury doubt.
The likes of fellow seamers Steven Finn and Graham Onions are waiting in the wings and, when called upon, the likes of 'reserve' quick Tim Bresnan have proved much more than stand-ins this series.
"(Anderson) would be a huge loss, like any of the seamers," said England off-spinner Graeme Swann.
"But we thought that with (Chris) Tremlett when he couldn't play at Trent Bridge, and up stepped Bressie (Bresnan) -- and he's been unbelievable in the two games he's played."
This will be England's last Test until 2012 and, even if they win at The Oval, South Africa could leapfrog them into top spot if they achieve decisive series wins against Australia and Sri Lanka in the interim.
"We want to do ourselves justice in the last game -- we did that very well in the Ashes (where England completed a 3-1 series win earlier this year)," explained Swann.
"Having retained them we gave our best performance of the series in Sydney in the last game and we are looking to emulate that here. It wouldn't be much of a team if we just fell to pieces and threw it all away."
India have injury concerns over seamer Praveen Kumar (finger), one of their few successes on this tour, and will be desperate for him to be fit.
The Oval Test could be the last in England for 38-year-old batting greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, the two highest run-scorers in Test history.
Tendulkar is still a tantalising century away from becoming the first batsman to score 100 international hundreds.
Now India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his side's top scorer in both their innings at Edgbaston, wants the team to start afresh.
"We need to forget the last three games, we must treat the final match as a one-Test series and not carry the burden of the last three Tests." (AFP)