Kevin Pietersen was livid last night after throwing away another wonderful opportunity to score a Test hundred. Pietersen was the last batsman to lose his wicket on a day affected by bad light and occasional drizzle, and in the 50.3 overs that were possible, England scored 163 runs. Yet it was India - who claimed four important wickets on the opening day of the second Test - who returned to their rooms the happier of the sides.
Pietersen was in magnificent form during the two and a quarter hours he spent at the crease. Not one of the Indian bowlers looked capable of controlling him until, on 64, and with a third Test century appearing a formality, he drove a hard chance back at the bowler. Munaf Patel, one of two players making his debut for India, took a sharp catch and a devastated Pietersen left the arena.
"I was really cross with myself for getting out 13 runs short of a hundred last week in Nagpur," Pietersen said. "And I am a disappointed man again tonight. I am not the sort of player who puts his own performances ahead of that of the team, and in the first Test I got out trying to score quick runs so that we could have as many overs as possible at India in their second innings.
"But this was a different situation and I would like to be on 64 not out overnight, not 64 and back in the hut. I have been working as hard as I can at my cricket over the last couple of days and I have been in a real good zone. I hit the ball nicely but I am not a happy man at all."
Pietersen batted with patience and responsibility against an Indian side who attempted to restrict his run scoring through setting defensive fields. Rahul Dravid, the Indian captain, placed five men in the covers and instructed his seamers to bowl wide of off-stump, but the tactic brought little reward. Pietersen left good-length balls alone and on each occasion Irfan Pathan or Patel overpitched, he clobbered the ball for four.
Pietersen is a magnificent player of spin and he looked to dominate the three slow bowlers India selected. "I try not to let spinners bowl at me," he said, explaining his attacking approach. "In the middle of the Ashes last year I was not being as positive as I should have been against Shane Warne and I stuttered a little bit.
"I looked at what happened and realised I was allowing him to bowl at me. I decided not to allow that to happen again. I feel a little bit sorry for the little kid but that is the way I want to play spinners. I want to get on top of them."
The little kid Pietersen referred to is Piyush Chawla who, at the age of 17 years and 75 days, is the second youngest Indian to have played Test cricket. Chawla shone in the Under-19 World Cup, taking 4 for 8 in 8.1 overs in the final, but the most important moment of his career came when he bowled Sachin Tendulkar, the youngest player to make his debut for India, in domestic cricket.
Chawla started his Test career with a maiden but Pietersen soon got the measure of his leg-spin and hit him over the leg side for a four and a six. These blows failed to upset Chawla who did not bowl a bad ball in his five overs. Pietersen had his day yesterday, but he may have to watch out over the coming years, if not weeks.
Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook gave England a solid start after Andrew Flintoff, rejoicing in the news that his wife had given birth to their second child, a son named Corey, won an important toss. Early morning thunderstorms delayed the start by 45 minutes and the overhead conditions appeared ideal for swing bowling, but Flintoff resisted the temptation to bowl first.
It was the correct decision, even though England had opted to play Liam Plunkett, a fourth seamer, ahead of Ian Blackwell. Pathan gained some movement in the air but the pitch was slow and low, and batting looked a pleasurable pastime.
The impression made by Cook on his Test debut in nagpur will not have been lost on Strauss, who struck a hundred in his first Test too - an innings that led to Nasser Hussain's premature retirement.
Strauss's position in the side is not under pressure and it is easy to forget the brilliant century he scored against Australia at The Oval to help England win the Ashes, but should he fail to post a decent score in India, and if Cook were to continue to impress, it would leave the selectors with a couple of interesting decisions to make when Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick return in the summer.
Cook, on 17, fell to Pathan when he played all round a straight ball and was trapped plumb in front.
Ian Bell and Pietersen eased the nerves of the visitors with an 81-run partnership before Bell shouldered arms to a gentle googly from Anil Kumble and was bowled. Bad light forced the players off soon after and in the 16 further overs of play that were bowled, England lost Pietersen for the addition of 46 runs.
England will need their lower order to perform as they did in Nagpur to reach a competitive total. The pitch is taking spin and batting from day three onwards may be challenging.
Moment of the day
Bowling your first over in Test cricket is a nervy task, but it did not appear to bother Piyush Chawla, the 17-year-old debutant. Each ball in his first over landed on a good length.
Ball of the day
Spinners love deceiving batsmen and that is just what Anil Kumble did to Ian Bell, who thought the ball from Kumble was a leg-break. But it was not, it was a googly that moved into him and grazed his off-stump.
Shot of the day
Kevin Pietersen is a batsman who plays unbelievable shots, as Irfan Pathan found out. With India bowling to a 7-2 off-side field, Pietersen shimmied down the pitch and whipped Pathan through wide mid-on from outside off-stump for four.
Scoreboard from Mohali
England won toss, first day of five
England - First Innings
A J Strauss c Dhoni b Pathan 18 46 min, 38 balls, 1 four
A N Cook lbw b Pathan 17 54 min, 38 balls, 2 fours
I R Bell b Kumble 38 89 min, 68 balls, 6 fours
K P Pietersen c and b Patel 64 139 min, 108 balls, 10 fours, 1 six
P D Collingwood not out 19 68 min, 46 balls, 2 fours
* A Flintoff not out 4 10 min, 7 balls, 1 four
Extras (b0, lb1, w0, nb2) 3
Total (for 4, 205 min, 50.3 overs) 163
Fall: 1-35 (Strauss) 2-36 (Cook) 3-117 (Bell) 4-157 (Pietersen).
To bat: ÝG O Jones, L E Plunkett, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, M S Panesar.
Bowling: Pathan 16-3-54-2 (8-2-23-2, 4-0-19-0, 4-1-12-0); Patel 11.3-1-44-1 (nb2) (3-0-13-0, 5-0-23-0, 3.3-1-8-1); Harbhajan Singh 6-0-15-0 (5-0-14-0, 1-0-1-0); Chawla 5-1-20-0 (one spell); Kumble 12-3-29-1 (one spell).
Progress: First day: Rain delayed start until 10.45am. 50: 65 min, 15.2 overs. Lunch: 54-1 (Bell 14, Pietersen 4) 18 overs. 100: 114 min, 27.5 overs. Bad light stopped play: 1.48pm-3.33pm, 118-2 (Pietersen 43, Collingwood 0) 35 overs. 150: 183 min, 45.1 overs. BLSP: 4.36pm.
Pietersen's 50: 100 min, 76 balls, 8 fours, 1 six.
India: W Jaffer, V Sehwag, *R S Dravid, S R Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, ÝM S Dhoni, I K Pathan, A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, M M Patel, P Chawla.
Umpires: D B Hair (Aus) and S J A Taufel (Aus).
TV replay umpire: A V Jayaprakash.
Match referee: R S Madugalle.Reuse content