Rampant England run amok
Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen each recorded centuries and shared a sensational partnership of 350 as England continued their relentless domination of India in the fourth npower Test at the Kia Oval.
The hosts, who boast a 3-0 lead in the series and will move to the top of the International Cricket Council rankings at the end of this match, ended the second day on 457 for three and in prime position to push for a fourth successive victory.
India staged a brief revival in the first hour of play as they removed Alastair Cook, who fell to the fifth ball, and Andrew Strauss, but they were soon made to toil in the field once again as England’s third-wicket pair piled on the runs in perfect batting conditions.
Bell exhibited his usual level of elegance in a chanceless unbeaten 181 featuring a host of delightful drives, while Pietersen, who compiled 175 from 232 balls, treated the sell-out crowd to several flamboyant shots en route to his 19th Test hundred – and fourth at this venue.
Their stand surpassed England's previous best of 308 against India, by Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb at Lord's in 1990.
The tourists appeared resigned to their fate long before each batsman had reached three figures and an air of inevitability surrounded England’s march towards another mammoth total.
Pietersen did enjoy a stroke of luck from the final ball before lunch when he flicked Ishant Sharma to Suresh Raina at leg slip, only for replays to show the ball had not quite carried.
He was dropped by a back-pedalling Gautam Gambhir immediately after bringing up his century, but by that stage England were in complete control.
Things looked much brighter for India this morning as they accounted for the two batsmen who had appeared relatively untroubled throughout a truncated opening day.
Cook, the main contributor to England’s 710 for seven declared at Edgbaston last week, was beaten by the fourth delivery of the day and then edged Ishant’s next ball, which was noticeably fuller, straight to Virender Sehwag, who had been moved to first slip with Rahul Dravid briefly off the field.
Strauss fell to the final ball before drinks when he chased a wide one from Sreesanth and provided Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a routine catch.
Bell had settled into his stride by then and Pietersen swiftly got off the mark with a controlled edge down to third man off Sreesanth.
The Surrey batsman repeated the trick in the seamer’s next over, before thumping Amit Mishra’s first ball disdainfully through the covers.
A trademark flick through midwicket off Mishra then earned Pietersen four more, although he was fortunate to survive the last ball before lunch, which was taken with the score reading 126 for two.
Ishant, once again India’s best bowler prior to the interval, was surprisingly overlooked by Dhoni at the start of the afternoon session, and the batsmen took full advantage.
Mishra came in for heavy punishment at the hands of Pietersen, who struck consecutive fours through square-leg and over long-on before swiping a full delivery down the ground, while Bell raced past 50 courtesy of a host of boundaries off Sreesanth.
In the space of five balls, the wayward seamer was clipped through midwicket, pulled dismissively behind square and then struck for consecutive fours through the off side.
Pietersen’s fifty arrived soon after, from 62 balls, and his cover-driven four off Mishra heralded the century partnership, with the pair’s second 50 runs coming off just 44 deliveries.
Successive fours through fine-leg off Ishant followed for Pietersen, who appeared to be moving ominously into top gear.
A rare false shot saw him edge Singh short of first slip, but Bell had no such problems as he collected 12 from the left-armer’s next over with a series of glorious shots, predominantly through the off side.
Mishra was reduced to coming around the wicket to the right-handers with a 6-3 leg-side field, a tactic which slowed the run-rate but also reduced the likelihood of a breakthrough.
With no sign of the available new ball, Bell eased to his fifth Test century in 2011 with a back-foot push through the covers off Raina.
Pietersen had to wait until the first ball after tea to bring up his own hundred, a feat he achieved in style by swatting a short delivery from Ishant to the midwicket rope.
However, he then looked to repeat the trick from the next ball and was relieved to see Gambhir, running back from mid-on, fail to hold on to a steepling chance.
India’s beleaguered attack struggled to make any impression thereafter and it was no surprise to see Sreesanth, ever the pantomime villain, lose his cool as runs continued to flow freely.
While every India bowler found life tough as the day drew to a close, it was Mishra who suffered most of all.
Pietersen helped himself to 14 from an over that also contained a no-ball and heaped further misery on the leg-spinner by registering his 24th four with a powerful switch-hit.
Bell joined the fun by smiting consecutive sixes – the first of the innings – over Mishra’s head as a demoralised attack was put to the sword in clinical fashion.
Pietersen eventually departed to a fine return catch from Raina with the close in sight, prompting England to surprisingly send out James Anderson as a nightwatchman.