England dominate at The Oval

England 457-3 v India
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The Independent Online

Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen piled up twin hundreds in a record triple-century stand as England showed India no mercy on day two of the fourth npower Test at The Oval.



England's third-wicket pair dominated India's vulnerable attack in a partnership of 350 as a benign surface and sunny skies made life increasingly comfortable for the hosts, and desperate for their opponents.



Shantha Sreesanth did his best to generate an illusion of competitiveness, with a series of vain attempts to engage Pietersen verbally.



But after the early loss of both Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook for the addition of only two runs between them, there was rarely even an approximation of a true contest between bat and ball in a total of 457 for three, with Bell and Pietersen posting England's record stand for any wicket against India.



After a watchful start, Bell (181no) and Pietersen (175) duly made the most of easy pickings on their way respectively to and well beyond their 16th and 19th Test centuries.



Bell's was his first on this ground, but fifth in 11 innings of a prolific 2011 to date.



Pietersen now has four Test hundreds here, and has moved level with Strauss and Cook's career tallies - to stand joint-third on England's all-time list.



He and Bell were circumspect in the hour before lunch, adding 29 after Strauss was second out. But the first 10 overs of the afternoon proved especially punishing for India as 59 runs were plundered.



Pietersen announced himself first with boundaries off leg-spinner Amit Mishra - and then Bell struck a quarter of fours in five balls off Sreesanth.



After the first, a fierce pull followed next ball, then there were two glorious cover drives on the up in Sreesanth's next over.



Bell also counted several of the 12 fours in his 181-ball hundred from what has become one of his trademark shots - the back or late-cut off pace to the habitually unguarded third-man boundary.



Pietersen, by contrast, typically used his unique reach and footwork to disrupt India's lines - whipping to leg or smearing off-side width among his 27 fours in a 232-ball innings.



He completed his hundred with a resounding pull from the first ball after tea from Ishant Sharma - only to offer his only chance off the very next delivery when he miscued a planned repeat high to mid-on.



But instead of easing India's pain, Gautam Gambhir haplessly inflicted some more on himself when he failed to hold an awkward skier and fell backwards on to his head and shoulders.



Pietersen and Bell had bagged 170 unbeaten runs from 38 overs in an extended second session as they took England's number of century partnerships in the series to nine.



In the presence of Primer Minister David Cameron England therefore moved ominously back on course for a match-controlling total, in pursuit of a 4-0 series whitewash to consolidate their new-found world number one Test status.



Those ambitions had hit a near immediate setback this morning.



Cook swished his bat in frustration after following some away swing from Sharma and edging the fifth ball of the day to second slip.



It was an especially aggravating turn of events for a batsman renowned for his powers of concentration and so immovable during his career-best 294 at Edgbaston just last week.



But had he known what was to come, he need not have been so hard on himself.



The same could be said for Strauss, who took an hour and 32 balls to add just two runs to his overnight 38 before going after some full-length width from Sreesanth and edging tamely behind.



If India hopes were rising, it was merely a cruel passing phase.



Bell took 10 balls to get off the mark, and Pietersen had one close call on 18 when a glance at Sharma fell just short of leg-slip from the final ball of the morning.



But other than Gambhir's early-evening mis-calculation, that was as close as they would ever get to interrupting the inevitable in a stand which surpassed Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb's England best for any wicket against India when it went past 308.



The tourists had just one 'centurion' of their own - thanks to Mishra's bowling figures, which had just yielded the first sixes of the innings to Bell, when Pietersen finally went caught and bowled to Suresh Raina's off-spin at the other end.



PA

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