Bell, Pietersen onslaught leaves India reeling

Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen added 350 runs for the third wicket Getty Images

By Ashish Shukla

London: Aug 19, 2011

Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen slammed fluent centuries as England put themselves on course for a clean sweep as they took complete command of the fourth and final Test against a hapless India.

Bell, unbeaten on 181 off 304 balls, and Pietersen (175 off 232) virtually made a mockery of the pedestrian Indian bowling attack as the hosts reached a mammoth 457 for three at stumps on a sunny second day at the Oval.

Resuming at 75 for no loss, England lost openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss early, but Bell and Pietersen stitched a massive 350-runs partnership — England’s best for the third wicket against India — to pile on the agony on the lacklustre Indians who again found the going tough on a good batting track.

Barring the pre-lunch session during which S Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma tasted success, none of the Indian bowlers looked like taking wickets till Suresh Raina sprang a surprise by removing Pietersen at the fag end of the day.

It was a dominating batting display by the two as Bell and Pietersen struck their second century of the four-match series.

Pietersen had struck a double in the first Test at Lord’s while Bell cracked 159 in the second at Trent Bridge.

While it was Bell’s 16th Test century and fifth of the year, Pietersen recorded the 19th of his career, thereby taking his average above 50 for the first time in two years, against a team that is down 0-3 and has just surrendered the top ranking in Tests to the hosts.

Pietersen, who got to the three-figure mark with a pulled four over mid-wicket off Ishant Sharma, was on the verge of being dismissed by the lanky seamer soon after reaching the landmark, but Gautam Gambhir, running backwards, gave him a reprieve to add to the woes.

During the course of their huge stand, Bell and Pietersen surpassed the 308 Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb added for the third wicket, incidentally, against India, at Lord’s in 1990.

Bell got his runs in 413 minutes, hit 17 fours and two sixes and faced 304 balls. Pietersen batted for 338 minutes, hit 27 fours from 232 balls. The 350 runs they produced together came off 80.5 overs and included 42 fours and two sixes.

Among the Indian bowlers, Bell took a special liking for RP Singh whom he belted for eight fours, while Pietersen reserved his harshest treatment for Amit Mishra whom he smacked for no less than 15 boundaries.

There came a stage that Mishra was given protection of four fielders on the onside boundary, but was still being swept for fours by the rampaging Pietersen. The visitors toiled for nearly seven hours without reward after the initial breakthroughs.

Both the openers fell to catches in the slip cordon off Ishant and Sreesanth but for the remaining day it was a flattening experience for the visitors.

There was hardly any credible shout from the fielders and when a chance did come their way, at 300 for two, Gambhir floored the offer at mid-on.

India looked good in the first two hours, accounting for England openers and conceding only 51 runs, but thereafter it was complete mayhem as 331 runs were plundered in the final two sessions.

Bell and Pietersen pressed on the pedal straight after lunch, scoring 84 runs from the third hour and 170 in all in the extended middle session. Bell opened his arms and hit Sreesanth for five fours in eight balls while Pietersen treated the leg-spin of Mishra with contempt, as the two shifted gears.

Bell preferred to choose his deliveries for playing attacking strokes and was largely watchful till he hit Mishra for two massive sixes in the final stages of the day’s play.

Pietersen, on the other hand, charged the bowlers often and two of his strokes illustrated his approach the best once when he came down the track to slap RP Singh’s short delivery for a four. Then, he played a switch hit against Mishra, smashing the bowler over midwicket boundary.

India ran ragged under this assault as Ishant alone could suggest a semblance of resistance. Sreesanth began to lose his cool and confronted Pietersen on more than one occasion while RP kept trudging in two bowl his gentle medium-pacers.

Pietersen was finally out when he offered a return catch to Raina in the final moments but night-watchman James Anderson, in the company of Bell, offered stiff resistance to ensure that England don’t lose another wicket before close. (PTI)

Brief Scores: England 457 for 3 (Ian Bell 181*, Kevin Pietersen 175, Andrew Strauss 40, Alastair Cook 34; Suresh Raina 1 for 36, Ishant Sharma 1 for 81, S Sreesanth 1 for 95) vs India

Full Scorecard