India crumble following Bell double
Ian Bell recorded his maiden Test double hundred, but India’s batsmen suffered further misery as England strengthened their hold over their opponents on a truncated third day of the fourth npower Test at the Kia Oval.
Bell, who resumed this morning on 181, surpassed his previous Test-best of 199, achieved against South Africa at Lord’s three years ago, and eventually contributed 235 to an imposing total of 591 for six.
The Warwickshire batsman’s masterful knock spanned almost eight-and-a-half hours and saw him overtake team-mate Alastair Cook as the leading scorer in Tests this year.
Following a lengthy delay due to rain, England’s bowlers then performed superbly to reduce the tourists, who are already 3-0 down in the series, to 103 for five at stumps.
James Anderson removed Virender Sehwag, who made a king pair at Edgbaston, in the first over of India’s innings and Stuart Broad had VVS Laxman caught behind for two soon after.
Rahul Dravid, promoted to open once again after it was revealed Gautam Gambhir had suffered a mild concussion when dropping Kevin Pietersen yesterday, added 55 with Sachin Tendulkar.
However, the latter then fell to Graeme Swann, who went on to have Suresh Raina stumped for a 29-ball duck and nightwatchman Ishant Sharma caught at short-leg to end the day with 3-27.
Dravid, as determined as ever, survived a few hairy moments to reach the close unbeaten on 57, but India, 488 behind, still face an uphill task to avoid the follow-on.
Having not offered a chance yesterday, Bell suffered an early scare this morning as he played and missed at the second ball of the morning from Sreesanth.
The next delivery was confidently clipped off the hip to the midwicket fence, however, and it wasn’t long before Bell was back in full flow with a picture-perfect straight drive off Ishant, the fourth four in as many overs.
Anderson was responsible for two of those boundaries, yet he then edged Sreesanth to second slip to depart for 13.
Eoin Morgan, today named as England’s captain for the upcoming one-day international against Ireland, then followed in the seamer’s next over as a loose drive provided wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a routine catch.
Bell remained and brought up his 200 with a glance to the fine-leg boundary before pulling Sreesanth between midwicket and mid-on for his 21st four two balls later.
Glorious cover drives off RP Singh and Amit Mishra followed as the 29-year-old continued to excel and Ravi Bopara, keen to make an impression in the absence of the injured Jonathan Trott, appeared in good touch himself during a brisk half-century partnership.
Their alliance - and the sublime innings of Bell - was eventually brought to an end with the score on 548 as the double centurion missed an attempted sweep off Raina and was adjudged lbw to the part-time off-spinner.
Bell was afforded a standing ovation on his way back to the pavilion, having struck 23 fours and two straight sixes in his 364-ball stay at the crease.
Clouds had started to envelop the ground by that stage, but Bopara, who finished unbeaten on 44 and Matt Prior were barely troubled for the remainder of the morning session as Dhoni continued to employ his largely unthreatening spin bowlers.
Rain then arrived during the interval and it wasn’t until 4:50pm that the players were able to return.
With so much time lost it was no surprise to hear home captain Andrew Strauss had opted to begin the hunt for 20 Indian wickets upon the resumption.
Following his double failure last week, Sehwag at least managed to crack Anderson through point for successive boundaries on this occasion before he was rapped plumb in front from the final ball of the first over.
Laxman swiftly followed as he attempted a defensive push at a rising Broad delivery and edged through to Prior, bringing Tendulkar to the crease alongside Dravid.
In taking India’s score to 31, the vastly-experienced duo became the most productive partnership in Test cricket, overtaking Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, but they each suffered several scares.
Dravid was beaten on numerous occasions by the accurate Broad, who struck Tendulkar on the helmet before he had got off the mark.
Tim Bresnan then shelled a tricky caught-and-bowled chance from Tendulkar, before putting the Little Master in further trouble with three successive deliveries.
The first hit the batsman on the body and an lbw appeal was then rejected before Tendulkar played and missed outside off stump.
Although England could consider themselves unfortunate, there were also several shots of authority as India’s third-wicket pair shared 50 in 80 balls, with nine fours.
Tendulkar fell soon after, however, as he looked to sweep Swann and saw the ball loop off his glove and arm to Anderson, running around from slip.
The limpet-like Dravid battled through to the close, but Raina could not follow suit and his painful stay was ended when he was beaten by a sharp off-break from Swann and stumped by Prior.
When Ishant departed for one to his ninth ball, India were in total disarray.