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India reel under Bell, Pietersen onslaught

Last updated on: August 20, 2011 00:11 IST
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Bikash Mohapatra reports from The Oval, on the second day's play in the fourth Test.

- Scorecard / Images

When you have one batsman (Ian Bell) scoring 181 and the other (Kevin Pietersen) notching 175, it is not impossible to imagine the plight of the opposite team.

If the numbers mentioned above do not explain the Indian agony on day two of the fourth and final Test at The Oval, then England's total (457 for three) certainly will.

Bell and Pietersen didn't do anything different on Friday. The home team has dominated the visitors throughout the series, and the duo simply ensured that the dominance continued.

They were simply the means to an end. In the process, they put on a record 350 runs for the third wicket -- the highest partnership for the wicket for England at the venue, obliterating the 268 runs put together by Graham Thorpe and Marcus Trescothick against South Africa in 2003.

Bell's 304-ball knock, inclusive of 17 hits to the fence and two over it, was a resolute innings. It was his fourth 150-plus score in Tests and came in close on the heels of his imperious 159 in the second Test at Trent Bridge a couple of weeks back.

Pietersen's was an authoritative innings. The 31-year-old played around with the bowling and helped himself to 27 boundaries in the process. It was the South Africa-born player's eighth 150-plus score and ensured he will finish the series in the manner he started it.  

The Indian bowling, needless to say, was pedestrian. The fielders looked haggard. The body language of their players gave a clear indication of the mental state they are in at the moment.

A series whitewash looms large. Unless, of course, the weather comes to India's rescue.

Morning session (51 runs, 25 overs, two wickets):

A bright, sunny morning on Friday was in sharp contrast to what was the case 24 hours earlier at The Oval.

With only 26 overs bowled on the opening day, an extension seemed a possibility. It came as no surprise, therefore, when it was announced that 98 overs would be played on Day Two of the fourth Test, with the possibility of play being extended by half-an-hour.

A new day also meant good fortune for India, in desperate need of some.

Ishant Sharma's opening over was in sharp contrast to what RP Singh bowled on the opening day -- described by the legendary Ian Botham as "the worst opening over ever bowled".

Ian BellThe bowler's intent was apparent from the first ball he sent down, and the reward was instant. Having dilly-dallied for the first four balls, Alastair Cook (34) went for a drive off the fifth and succeeded only in edging in to Virender Sehwag at first slip.

The batsman failed to add to his overnight score.

It took 24 balls before England added a run to their overnight total (75), courtesy a single to mid-on by Andrew Strauss (40) off RP.

Ian Bell needed 10 balls to get off the mark. However, he looked in good touch thereafter.

Just 21 runs were scored of the first 10 overs of the day, Bell scoring 20 of them.

India's bowlers maintained a tight line to Strauss and tied him down. England's captain could add just two runs to his overnight score of 38, off the 32 balls he faced in the morning.

The pressure had the desired impact. The batsman played a loose shot in Sreesanth's third over and succeeded in only edging it to Dhoni. 

England lost their second wicket and India made a good impression in the opening session.

Kevin Pietersen's first scoring shot, a boundary off Sreesanth past third slip, helped the home team get past the 100-run mark.

He and Ian Bell made sure England suffered no further damage going into lunch, at 126 for two (in 51 overs). 

Bell was unbeaten on 29 and Pietersen on 18.

Post-lunch session (170 runs, 38 overs, no wickets):

Offense is the best form of defense.

Taking the cue from Strauss's dismissal is the opening session -- when the captain was tied down to the point of frustration, England's batsmen didn't want to fall into the same trap.

Having freed their arms in the first four overs after resumption, off which 10 runs were scored, the duo opened up from the fifth over.

Pietersen was the first to break free. A boundary over midwicket off Mishra's third over signalled the batsman's intention. Another one, two balls later (and wide of long on this occasion), confirmed it.

Bell got into the act in the next over (the 57th), bowled by Sreesanth (his 15th). The first boundary came off the fourth ball, courtesy a Tendulkar misfield at deep square leg. The second came off the next, towards fine leg this time.

Sreesanth's 16th over was, by far, the most expensive one. Two crackling cover drives, off the first two deliveries, helped Bell register his 29th Test fifty. The batsman celebrated the feat by hitting the final delivery of the over to the fine leg fence.

Fourteen runs came off the over, and 18 in Sreesanth's first four overs after resumption, with Bell helping himself to five boundaries, in the space of nine balls, off the bowler.

Dhoni wasted no time in replacing the bowler with Ishant.

Not that it helped matters much. For, Ishant conceded nine runs off his first over and 11 off his third, Pietersen being the beneficiary on both the occasions. The batsman completed his 26th Test fifty in the process.

While only 21 runs were scored in the first 10 overs of the morning session, its equivalent of the second produced a whopping 59 runs.

After the initial acceleration -- with 84 runs coming off the first 14 overs after resumption -- the English duo settled down to build the innings again.

With his frontline bowlers failing to make an impact, Dhoni handed the ball to Suresh Raina in the 79th over. The part-timer could not make an impact. He did though help Bell reach 16th Test century by allowing the batsman his 12th boundary.

It was Bell's fifth century in what has been an incredible year and his second against India -- following that epic 159 at Trent Bridge a couple of weeks back.

Pietersen was tantalizing close to his hundred as England did not lose a wicket in the session, thereby ensuring a complete dominance.

The second session was as much about India loosening their grip over the match as it was about English consolidation.

For the record, the home team was 296 for two (after 89 overs) going into tea. Bell was unbeaten on 114, and Pietersen two runs short of what will be a deserving century.

Post-tea session (161 runs, 34 overs, one wicket):

The English dominance continued unabated in the day's final session. Bell and Pietersen plundered the bowling at will, both getting past the 150-run mark in the process. Their third wicket stand (of 350) made sure Indian hopes for an implausible result went up in smoke.

By the time Pietersen was dismissed, caught by Raina off his own bowling, the Indian ordeal (for the day) was nearing its end.

The wicket didn't matter as much as the day getting over did.

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