Bell, Pietersen plunder

Bell, Pietersen plunder

Normal service restored as early Indian fire dissipates rapidly

Bell, Pietersen plunder

After a shoddy show with the ball on the opening day, Indian performance witnessed a marked shift on the second morning. Bowlers ran in with more energy and purpose and fielding lifted itself up, mainly because of the acrobatic Suresh Raina, as India won a rare session in this dead rubber. However, as it has often been seen, England, overnight 75/0 on a rain-truncated day, once again came from behind to shatter India’s slim hopes of enjoying the better of exchanges, finishing the day at an imposing 457 for three.

An elegant Ian Bell (181 batting, 304b, 17x4, 2x6) and a chancy but an attacking Kevin Pietersen (175, 232b, 27x4) added 350 runs for the third wicket as England assumed control of the proceedings. Dropped catches, poor fielding and the resultant drooping shoulders were all back. RP Singh manifested everything that has gone wrong for India on this tour. His selection ahead of Munaf Patel had appeared flawed and the left-arm seamer did his best and succeeded in proving it, both while bowling and fielding.

Ishant gave India a good start by removing a tentative Alastair Cook (34) for his overnight score with the fifth ball of the day. Like he had done on the first day without any success, the Delhi paceman kept probing the off-stump line and was soon rewarded when the left-hander chose to drive a slightly fullish delivery only to nick it to Virender Sehwag at first slip.

Andrew Strauss, after spending a frustrating 63 minutes during which he added just two to his overnight 38, took on S Sreesanth and ended up in the hands of MS Dhoni behind the wickets. The session could have been more fruitful had Pietersen’s flick off his pads carried to Raina at leg-slip, stationed particularly for this shot.

The English batsmen came out with a totally different mindset for the middle session and wrested the initiative from India after a record stand. While only 51 runs came off 25 overs in the first two hours, a whopping 170 came in the next two and a half hours in which India bowled 38 overs. The final session of the day too proved equally fruitful for the hosts, who gathered 161 runs in 34 overs. Pietersen continued to live dangerously playing airy-fairy shots but it hardly made him sacrifice his attacking instincts.

The right-hander never allowed Amit Mishra to settle, slog-sweeping, heaving and even switch-hitting the leg-spinner. He should’ve been out immediately after reaching his 100 when Gautam Gambhir spilled him back-pedalling from mid-on off Ishant. Pietersen was on 102 off 300 when he was reprieved and he went on add 73 more to his personal tally.

Bell, on the other hand, was style and substance personified. Where Pietersen was forceful and even clumsy on occasions, Bell was all poise and grace; a rare breed among English-born batsmen. Majority of his runs came on the off, a direct result of a flurry of gorgeous cover drives and neatly executed cuts. The Warwickshire batsman took a particular liking to Sreesanth. Bell pulled, flicked and drove the paceman for five fours in eight balls as he brought up his half-century. The 29-year-old didn’t take his foot off the pedal as he notched up his next fifty in just 70 balls for his 16th career and second ton of the series. A first double ton appears very much on the cards.