Pietersen leads England out of early trouble

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen hit a typically aggressive half-century to cheer England in the gloom of the second Test.

Pietersen's 64 helped the tourists recover from losing two early wickets at the Punjab Cricket Association headquarters, before he was caught and bowled by Munaf Patel for 64.

Pietersen's innings, the seventh time in 10 Tests he has passed 50, proved the cornerstone of England's 163 for 4 before bad light stopped play.

Ian Bell's innings of 38 reached its conclusion when he pushed at Anil Kumble and was defeated as the ball fizzed onto the off bail.

Warwickshire batsman Bell realigned the innings alongside Pietersen after the tourists lost both openers cheaply but it was the latter's positive approach which countered India's early ascendancy.

The pair negotiated five overs of a rain-reduced morning session, after Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook fell in consecutive Irfan Pathan overs, and increased the scoring rate upon the resumption.

Pietersen began the session by attacking 17-year-old debutant Piyush Chawla to sweep a four and then repeating the stroke to clear the huge boundary at midwicket.

Ashes hero Pietersen then took his toll on India's other new boy Munaf Patel, twice finding the rope in one over.

Bell was more circumspect in his approach but pierced the off side with two drives through the covers off Pathan as England batted under floodlights.

After captain Andrew Flintoff won his second toss in a row, it was a stand the tourists required.

Strauss brought about his own demise as he flashed at a wide delivery and edged behind to wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni.

It was Pathan's ability to swing the new ball which undid Cook as one ducked back in to earn a straightforward leg-before decision.That left England 36 for two in the 13th over of a tricky morning which began with Pathan locating the outside edge of Strauss' bat with the opening delivery of the match only for the ball to drop short of second slip.

Pathan's spell of 8-2-23-2 certainly gave the Indians a fine start at the venue they secured victory in the 1-0 series triumph over England four years ago.

Overnight rain delayed the start by three quarters of an hour; more wet weather is forecast in the coming days.

Flintoff went into the contest after learning last night that wife Rachael had given birth to a baby boy.

Flintoff, 28, chose to remain here in India after replacing Michael Vaughan in charge rather than return home to witness the birth of Corey, his second child.

England made one change from the first Test with Liam Plunkett earning his second cap in place of Ian Blackwell.

India, meanwhile, brought in three new faces with Chawla and fast bowler Patel making bows and Yuvraj Singh returning after injury.

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