Day 2: England vs India,4th Test Match – Video Highlights Online.
Tea England 296 for 2 (Bell 114*, Pietersen 98*) v India
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Ian Bell continued to enjoy life as England's stand-in No. 3 with his second hundred of the series and Kevin Pietersen closed in on another century to leave the home side powerfully placed on 296 for 2. The third-wicket pair dominated the afternoon session at The Oval with an unbroken third-wicket stand of 199 after India had taken the honours early by removing both the openers during a rare period of pressure. Watch Live Score
Ishant Sharma removed Alastair Cook in the first over and Andrew Strauss was tied down for an hour before driving loosely at Sreesanth. The morning brought 51 runs in 25 overs, but Pietersen and Bell had already begun their consolidation and after the interval the rate increased with 170 runs coming from a 38-over afternoon session. Bell had laid the ground work following the early dismissal of Cook and, after his innings at Edgbaston last week which was a skittish affair, he was back in full control as he had been at Trent Bridge during his 159.
As in that innings third man was a favourite area with India refusing to plug the gap. They preferred a man at deep point, but Bell toyed with them as he slotted boundaries either side of the sweeper. He took three boundaries off a Sreesanth over as the bowlers started to tire with another heavy load and continued to churn out the runs with the efficiency and style he has shown during a season where his Test average is over 100.
In fitting style his hundred came with a sweetly-timed back-foot drive off Suresh Raina having faced 181 deliveries with the second fifty taking 71 balls. With the early threat of Ishant nullified it became an exercise in milking and retaining concentration - Bell had no problem with either.
Pietersen had dominated the partnership early on, firstly while the pair consolidated before the lunch break and then when the rate increased. The first 10 overs of the afternoon brought 59 runs and Pietersen took the attack to Amit Mishra. The contest had started when Pietersen cracked Mishra's first ball through the off side and it was clear he wasn't going to let the legspinner settle. Mishra's lack of drift allowed Pietersen to target the leg side and midwicket was a profitable area.
As is often the case with a Pietersen innings, especially when he's being aggressive, there were the occasional alarms. The nearest he came to being dismissed involved leg slip, similar to during his double hundred at Lord's, when he flicked Ishant towards Raina off the last ball before lunch but the catch didn't quite carry. Unlike at Lord's there was no controversy, but it had been a clever piece of thinking from Ishant who'd noticed how far across the stumps Pietersen was moving.
However, India's fielding has been largely shoddy during the series and there were two examples in consecutive balls with Pietersen approaching his hundred. RP Singh didn't appear fully committed to a catch at long-off when Pietersen miscued a lofted drive off Raina, then off the first ball of the next over, he dived over a ball at deep backward square to gift another boundary.
Both Pietersen and Bell showed the value of battling through the tough periods which India's top order has failed to do in this series. The first two hours was as well as the visitors had bowled since the opening day at Trent Bridge and it was desperately needed after a limp effort on the rain-hit Thursday.