Another Test match, another hundred for Ian Bell. Delightful it was too, like its three predecessors this summer and if anything on a higher artistic plane. He is becoming the must-watch batsman of this generation and his overall average is galloping towards 50, the modern benchmark of greatness.
There was also, almost incidentally, which is ridiculous in itself, a hundred for Kevin Pietersen. It was merely his second of 2011, though his sixth score above 50 in 10 innings. Together the pair made it a routine day of subjugation for India on the second day of the fourth Test. In the evening, England were so dominant the embarrassment factor was higher than the spectators' sunscreen factor.
When Pietersen finally went for 175, the pair had shared a stand of 350, 170 of them in the afternoon session, 151 in the evening. England finished on 457 for 3 and Bell was 181 not out.
Their long occupation followed the unexpected loss of both openers in the morning and took England to another formidable position. There are no demons in the pitch but it will reward accuracy and pace, which England possess and India do not.
Bell's batting always varies around impeccable, delectable and divine and, yesterday, it embraced the whole trio. These qualities, alluring as they are, do not necessarily pay the bills and Bell is also a man of steel and determination.
India might have hoped for better, much better, after managing to remove Alastair Cook with the fifth ball of the day followed by Andrew Strauss before the first hour was out. Cook nicked to slip, Strauss, having been becalmed, essayed a drive which found the edge. But the tourists ended up wondering what they had done to themselves. Nothing went right.
On the stroke of lunch they thought they had ensnared Pietersen in the leg-slip trap but he was reprieved on review. Pietersen later almost offered a chance to long off from a leading edge. It would have been a chance had R P Singh been faster, fitter and more alert, but that is to be fanciful.
He was dropped shortly after tea, the ball after reaching his 19th Test hundred, Gautam Gambhir careering backwards at mid-on and failing to hold on to a catch above his head. It was indicative of a broader fielding malaise – even Sachin Tendulkar shovelled a ball over the ropes like a scrum-half trying to clear up at the base of a ruck.
Bell just got on with the business of bringing pleasure to the masses and his 16th Test hundred arrived with his 12th four, pushed through the covers off the back foot.
The second new ball, which India mysteriously delayed taking offered the tourists their last hope of redemption on this day but the evening session just saw the batsmen each sail past 150. Pietersen finally mistimed a drive which Amit Mishra held on to but the damage had long since been done.Reuse content