Bell tops 200; India back to the Wall again

Bell tops 200; India back to the Wall again

For the fourth time in the series, Dravid was forced to open the innings with Gautam Gambhir not available to bat when England declared their innings at 591 for six after the entire middle session had been washed out due to steady drizzle at The Oval on Saturday.

Dravid walked in with Virender Sehwag and walked back undefeated on 57 (108b, 9x4) as India laboured to 103 for five at close on the third day. The visitors are still 488 runs behind England’s first innings total and need a further 289 runs to avoid the follow-on. Skipper MS Dhoni was giving Dravid the company.

In a series which has seen an explosion of ‘daddy hundreds’ by the home batsmen, Ian Bell (235, 364b, 23x4, 2x6) brought up his maiden double ton to help England extend their domination. After the declaration, it was the bowlers’ turn to rattle India. Sehwag, coming on the back of a king pair, survived the first ball but couldn’t survive the first over of James Anderson. VVS Laxman lasted just one ball more when he angled his bat to an out-swinger from Stuart Broad.

That brought together Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid to the middle and the veteran duo managed to keep the English attack at bay for a while though the Mumbaikar looked hardly in. He struggled to judge the bouncers and was struck on his helmet and body. The right-hander was even reprieved by Tim Bresnan off his own bowling. Graeme Swann, who procured appreciable turn and bounce on a wearing track, put an end to Tendulkar’s misery when his attempted sweep ballooned off his glove for Pietersen to complete a simple catch behind stumper Matt Prior.

Suresh Raina showed great deal of patience and pluck to defy the pressure-cooker situation before he was stumped off Swann. The replays remained inconclusive but third umpire Steve Davis was happy with the evidence available. Night watchman Ishant Sharma was back in the hut soon as India lost half of their side. With no clear picture about Gambhir, India need some divine intervention to save the blushes.

Earlier, England, overnight 457 for three, declared their innings at their lunch score after rain washed out the middle session. It took 20 minutes for the Indian bowlers to send back night-watchman James Anderson back to the pavilion and Eoin Morgan joined him soon, S Sreesanth accounting for both.

However, Bell, overnight 181, looked as fluent as he had been the previous day when he battered Indian attack into submission in the company of Pietersen. Beautiful cover-drives and punches down the ground kept flowing from his blade and the little-built batsman off-set the twin set-backs with Bopara in tow. Bell overtook his previous Test highest score of 199 against South Africa at Lord’s when he flicked Sreesanth to fine-leg fence to move from 199 to 203.

Bell and Bopara continued to milk the Indian bowlers as they raised a 61-run association for the sixth wicket before the former fell to the part-time off-spin of Suresh Raina who bowled better than their front-line spinner Amit Mishra. Having frittered away his chance at Edgbaston, Bopara earned an extended run in the team and gave a good account of himself during his 75-ball unbeaten stay in the middle. But for rain, he too could have piled on India’s misery.

Score board

England 1st innings:

Andrew Strauss c Dhoni b Sreesanth 40
Alastair Cook c Sehwag b Sharma 34
Ian Bell lbw b Raina 235
Kevin Pietersen c & b Raina 175
James Anderson c Laxman b Sreesanth 13
Eoin Morgan c Dhoni b Sreesanth 1
Ravi Bopara not out 44
Matt Prior not out 18
Extras: (B-6, LB-8, W-7, NB-10) 31
Total: (for 6 wickets decl in 153 overs) 591
Fall of wickets: 1-75, 2-97, 3-447, 4-480, 5-487, 6-548
Bowling: RP Singh 34-7-118-0, Ishant 31-7-97-1, Sreesanth 29-2-123-3, Raina 19-2-58-2, Mishra 38-3-170-0, Tendulkar 2-0-11-0.

India 1st innings:

Virender Sehwag lbw b Anderson 8
Rahul Dravid batting 57
VVS Laxman c Prior b Broad 2
Sachin Tendulkar c Anderson b Swann 23
Suresh Raina st Prior b Swann 0
Ishant Sharma c Cook b Swann 1
Mahendra Singh Dhoni batting 5
Extras: (LB-5, W-2) 7
Total: (for 5 wkts in 33 overs) 103
Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-13, 3-68, 4-93, 5-95
Bowling: Anderson 5-1-21-1, Broad 10-1-22-1, Bresnan 7-0-25-0, Swann 10-3-27-3, Pietersen 1-0-3-0. 

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