Bell and Pietersen share record England stand

LONDON, (Reuters) – Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen  shared a record partnership of 350 yesterday as England  ruthlessly dissected an inadequate India attack on the second  day of the fourth and final test at the Oval.

Ian Bell

At the close of a prolonged day after two sessions were lost  to rain on Thursday, England were 457 for three with a 4-0  series whitewash in their sights.

The home team took top place in the world rankings from  India with their innings victory in the third test at Edgbaston.

Bell (181 not out) and Pietersen (175) each completed their  second centuries of the series on Friday and the third-wicket  stand exceeded the previous England best for any wicket against  India, 308 by current batting coach Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb  at Lord’s in 1990.

“If anybody had said I would score 175 this morning I would  have taken it,” Pietersen told Sky Sports.

A sunny day began deceptively well for India, who accounted  for openers Andrew Strauss (40) and Alastair Cook (34) after the  pair had resumed on 75 for no wicket.

Cook, whose test average had briefly crept over 50, fenced  at the fourth ball of Ishant Sharma’s opening over from the  Vauxhall End and was beaten outside the off stump.

Kevin Pietersen

The next ball, a fuller delivery, drew the batsman forward  in an attempted drive which flew off the edge to Virender Sehwag  at first slip.

Strauss scored only two runs in the opening hour and then  threw away his wicket when he chased a wide delivery from  Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and was caught behind by Mahendra Singh  Dhoni.

Bell, whose first boundary was a delightful late cut off RP  Singh, and Pietersen took England to lunch at 126 for two.

Pietersen flicked the final ball before the interval off  Sharma to Suresh Raina at leg-slip who dived forward to gather  the ball but then indicated the catch had not carried.

  PANTOMIME VILLAIN       

Although Sharma was again the pick of the bowlers, Dhoni  opted to start with the unthreatening Sreesanth partnered by  Amit Mishra’s gentle leg-spin when play resumed after the  interval.

Bell took successive leg-side fours off Sreesanth, the first  going through the usually safe hands of Sachin Tendulkar at deep  square-leg, and Pietersen struck Mishra for a straight four with  a shot which owed more to hockey than cricket.

England number three Bell then unfurled two glorious fours  through the covers off consecutive balls from the hapless  Sreesanth, the batsman striking four boundaries in five balls.

Sharma made a belated appearance but the batsmen were well  set and Pietersen whipped the paceman to leg for a four and then  moved across his stumps to glance another boundary.

Bell was now in prime form in an extended afternoon session,   gliding Singh through the off side twice for fours to move into  the 80s.

He reached his 16th test century, his fifth of the year and  his first at the Oval, by punching Raina through the off side  for a 12th boundary.

Pietersen completed his 19th test century, and his fourth at  the ground where his maiden test hundred in 2005 ensured England  won the Ashes, by pulling the first delivery after tea off  Sharma to the boundary.

He skied the next ball to mid-on where Gautam Gambhir,  running backwards, spilled the chance as he tumbled to the  ground.

The runs continued to flow, even though Mishra resorted to  bowling at the leg stump from around the wicket with six  fielders on the on-side.

He still conceded 15 off one over with  Pietersen helping himself to three fours.

Sreesanth enlivened proceedings in his role of pantomime  villain by twice hurling the ball at Pietersen’s stumps in his  follow through, exchanging words with the batsman on the second  occasion.

Although he employed all the mannerisms of a demon quickie  he was bowling no more than medium pace and Pietersen moved down  the pitch to on-drive a boundary and also hooked the next  delivery contemptuously for another four.

Bell joined in the fun with successive straight sixes off  Mishra before Pietersen finally departed, caught and bowled by  Raina shortly before the close. His 27 boundaries included one  four from an audacious switch hit.

“I don’t think it’s a risky shot,” he said. “I play it a  lot, I practise it a lot.”

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