Pietersen rallies England in wake of 'freak' show

Captain seeks to lift his demoralised side ahead of tomorrow's second Test

What does a fighter do when his best punch hits an opponent flush on the chin and it only breaks a whisker? That is the quandary facing England as they prepare for tomorrow's second Test against India here.

In the first Test at Chennai, Kevin Pietersen's side landed several telling blows that would have KO'd most opponents, but India, after taking a couple of standing counts, came back brilliantly to win a remarkable game by six wickets. Since that epic encounter Pietersen has been faced with the challenge of convincing a demoralised side that they can overcome the form team in world cricket.

"The lads can feel confident purely from the fact that we won 70 per cent of that fixture and unfortunately got pipped at the post," said Pietersen, the ever-enthusiastic England captain. "It still is a bitter pill to swallow, but at least we got close, a lot closer than we thought.

"We really pushed this strong Indian side right until the last session of the final day of the Test. We didn't lose a session until the fourth afternoon. Everybody probably wrote us of before we got here, but the guys have been really special since they jumped on the plane for India, they are fully committed and have put a huge amount of effort in.

"I suppose the game in Chennai was a missed opportunity, but we tried everything we could. India have a freak of a bloke opening the batting [Virender Sehwag] and a freak batting at four [Sachin Tendulkar]. Sehwag took the game away from us and when Tendulkar plays like that, it is very difficult. But the guys are raring to go again. They have trained with purpose here, with the aim being to level the series. It hasn't been a great start to the winter and we want to finish this year on a positive note."

England's spirits would have been raised as they walked out to inspect the pitch. Indian pitches normally look like Yul Brynner's head but the one here looks verdant. A closer inspection showed the grass covering to be patchy – more implant than Mohican in appearance – but, even so, it could give England's faster bowlers something to work with.

The climate here in the north east is kinder too. Chennai, when the sun came out, was like an oven, whereas Mohali is far cooler. The conditions will allow Pietersen to operate his fast bowlers in seven- or eight-over spells rather than the four, or five, they could manage in the first Test.

Such circumstances would suggest that England play an extra fast bowler but, as is always the case in India, it is not that simple. The ends of the pitch are bare and cracked and spin is once again expected to play a major role.

England have two major decisions to make now that Pietersen, who broke a rib playing squash the day before the fifth one-day international in Cuttack, has said that he will play. The first is whether they persevere with Ian Bell at No 3, or bring in Owais Shah. Bell continues to be a riddle. Many thought last summer's marvellous 199 against South Africa at Lord's would act as a catalyst for greater consistency, but it has not been the case. Since that innings he has scored just 157 runs at an average of 19.6.

Bell's one-day form has been indifferent, too, and it resulted in him being dropped for England's fifth limited over match on the day terrorists attacked Mumbai. Shah was England's most impressive batsmen during the one-day series and he deserves a go.

The tougher decision concerns England's bowling. Should Stuart Broad play and if so ahead of whom – James Anderson, Stephen Harmison, Monty Panesar, or Graeme Swann? The appearance of the pitch would encourage England to play a fourth seamer, and if that is the case it will probably be instead of Swann. Panesar was disappointing in Chennai, but he remains the likelier match-winner.

But before picking the side the selectors should look at the Test played here two months ago. Then India's spinners – Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra – took 12 Australian wickets as they gave the world champions a 320-run thrashing. England's last two appearances here, both crushing defeats, should have taught them the value of playing spinners too. In the two Tests India's slow bowlers shared 26 of the 40 England wickets to fall.

The weather, and in particular the early sunsets, may prove to be as big an obstacle as India's batsmen for England. In an attempt to counter the issue – the light begins to fade on a cloudless day before the scheduled close of play – there is talk of floodlights being used, or the start being brought forward by half an hour to 9am local time.

Pietersen is not confident his opponents will agree. "I don't think we will use floodlights," he said. "We used them during practice in Abu Dhabi and it didn't work – the red ball was hard to see. There could be cause for an earlier start but that brings the early morning dew into consideration. India would need to agree to that and they are 1-0 up in the series. We would probably have said 'no' had we won in Chennai."

India have given Rahul Dravid one last Test to prove his worth and they will consider playing Munaf Patel – a seamer – ahead of Mishra. When Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, sees the pitch he will no doubt ask the groundsman to sharpen the blades on his mower and get pushing.

Second Test Mohali: Probable teams

India

M S Dhoni (capt, wkt)

V Sehwag

G Gambhir

R Dravid

S T Tendulkar

V V S Laxman

Yuvraj Singh

Harbhajan Singh

Zaheer Khan

A Mishra

I Sharma

England

K P Pietersen (capt)

A J Strauss

A N Cook

O A Shah

P D Collingwood

A Flintoff

M J Prior (wkt)

G P Swann

S C J Broad

S J Harmison

M S Panesar

Umpires: A Rauf (Pak) and D J Harper (Aus)

Venue: Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali

320

India's margin of victory in the last Test match played in Mohali – against Australia, the world's No 1 side.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn