Spinner Graeme Swann believes England will have to take early wickets today if they are to complete a 4-0 series whitewash against India at the Oval.
After asking India to follow on, England managed three second-innings wickets as the tourists closed on 129 for three - still trailing by 162 runs.
Swann claimed two of the wickets, including first-innings centurion Rahul Dravid, as his slow right-arm spin looked set to be crucial to England’s hopes on a wearing final-day wicket.
After a summer when England’s seamers have done most of the damage on conducive wickets, Swann admitted he was looking forward to finally getting his chance to play a key role.
“It excites me - especially after you play a whole season on belting batting and seaming wickets,” he said last night. “It is nice to get a spinning wicket.
“We need to make inroads in the morning. We’ve got 20 overs where the ball will talk a lot. I was fairly happy with the way I bowled all day. My body is aching like it hasn’t all summer, but it’s a nice ache.”
Dravid was disappointed to fall for 13 before the close tonight after he batted through India’s first innings to be unbeaten on 146.
Swann eked him out this evening with a ball Dravid admitted had just nicked before being caught by Alastair Cook at short leg.
India’s batting has relied upon his defiance in the series, but Dravid believes star man Sachin Tendulkar - who reached stumps unbeaten on 35 - can finally find form tomorrow and save the tourists from a whitewash.
“It’s been a tough series,” he said. “They are a quality side and have bowled well as a group. Some of us have had a tough series, but hopefully tomorrow it is Sachin’s day.”