Bell and Pietersen hit record partnership against India

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport at The Oval
Fourth Test, The Oval (day two):
England 457-3 v India
Match scorecard
Bell and Pietersen hit a record 350-run stand against India
Bell and Pietersen hit a record 350-run stand against India and were one run short of The Oval record

Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen piled up England's highest partnership against India as the hosts took control of the fourth Test at The Oval.

The duo, who came together with England on the back foot, sapped the life out of the tourists with huge hundreds in a phenomenal stand of 350 on the second day.

Pietersen made 175 and Bell finished unbeaten on 181 - his fourth Test century of the summer - as England closed on a commanding 457-3.

Together they treated a capacity crowd to a batting exhibition, their contrasting styles making the spectacle all the richer for the 23,500 spectators.

Both went past 150 in the final hour as they surpassed Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb's partnership of 308 against India at Lord's in 1990 and posted England's seventh highest stand against any team.

It was particularly galling for an India side who had dominated the opening session of the day with a vastly improved bowling and fielding display.

They took the first wicket with the fifth ball of the day when Alastair Cook pushed lazily at Ishant Sharma and edged to Virender Sehwag at first slip for 34.

England did not score a run until the last ball of fourth over, with Andrew Strauss finding scoring particularly difficult. The captain added only two runs to his overnight 38 in 32 balls before he wafted his bat loosely at a ball from Sreesanth and nicked through to MS Dhoni.

With India in the ascendancy for the first time since the early stages of the second Test at Trent Bridge, Bell and Pietersen batted cautiously early on.

Pietersen almost fell in the last over before lunch when a glance off his hips dropped just short of leg slip Suresh Raina.

But the momentum swung dramatically after the interval, with Bell and Pietersen going on the offensive and cracking 59 runs in 10 overs - eight more than England mustered in the entire first session.

Pietersen slapped two Amit Mishra full tosses for four and Bell brought up his fifty with a flurry of four boundaries in five balls.

With the series back in its default mode of England dominance, there was a certain inevitability in both men reaching three figures.

Bell got there first with a square cut off Raina and Pietersen brought up his ton with a pull to the fence off the first ball after tea.

Attempting to repeat the shot off Sharma's next ball, he top-edged it in the air and was dropped by Gautam Gambhir as he back-pedalled from mid-on, banging his head into the bargain.

It was a costly error as the onslaught continued with Pietersen charging down the wicket to club boundary after boundary and Bell keeping his own score ticking over with some textbook strokeplay until he let himself go by heaving the hapless Mishra for two consecutive sixes.

Pietersen smashed Raina over his head for his 27th four but was out next ball as he mis-hit a drive and fed a straightforward return catch to the bowler. He departed to a standing ovation, safe in the knowledge that his exploits with Bell had put England in a great position to go on and record a series whitewash.

"I've been on the receiving end of a whitewash, but it's not for us to worry about what's happening in the Indian rooms," said the former England captain.

"It's for us to make sure we win the first hour tomorrow and over the next three days we get the 20 Indian wickets."

Pietersen's 19th Test hundred - his fourth at The Oval - puts him level with team-mates Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook on the list of England's all-time century makers, three short of the record of 22 jointly held by Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey and Wally Hammond.

"It would be nice to get a record, but I think there are a lot of players in this team who are going to get more than 22 hundreds," said Pietersen.

"It's amazing to be part of a team where you've got guys who are hitting hundreds like this.

"It's not a competition; it's not a race. It's just a case of winning games for England, getting us into positions where we can win games.

"Getting Test hundreds is something you dream about when you're a kid and then trying to make a profession as a cricketer - so any Test hundred is amazing. To score four here now is pretty cool."

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