England take firm control of first Test
Alastair Cook smashed ton on debut and along with Pietersen (87) set his side up for a shot at victory. ScorecardUpdated: Mar 04, 2006 18:41 IST
Indian cricket buffs came to know on Saturday, why Kevin Pietersen is ranked as the most fearful batsman by the hard-nosed Aussies... and why Alastair Cook could brew up a nice-looking future for himself..
On a flat, slow-paced batting pitch that had lost all its spongy state from day three, owing to incandescent sun, the two England batsman shoved India into the depths of nothingness, giving England a remote yet possible shot at victory.
The duo put on a rollicking 128-run partnership, building on a promising start to post a score of 297, but more importantly - taking a lead of almost unsurmountable lead of 367 runs.
Pietersen smashed a whirlwind 87 while Cook followed up with a power-packed ton on debut -the 15th England player to do so - to knock the stuffing out of India's home aspirations.
Bowlers had a grinding day again with the duo showing no signs of any discomfort as they countered the famed spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh with tenacious strokeplay and some amazing luck.
The hosts' resources were thrown out of gear on a day which saw the home team spill as many as five catches. One needed just a look at Dravid's face to realize what gamut of emotions he must have gone through.
To add to his misery, even those balls that got the batsman dead in front or were lapped up after shedding sweat and blood, were turned down with a swish of a hand or a flick off a switch by the third umpire.
In fact Pietersen in particular looked blessed with horse-shoe luck when he survived a contentious caught & bowled by Kumble at 36.
The third umpire after much deliberation, gave him not out, much to the fury of Indian fielders as the replays showed the batsman scooping the ball straight back to the bowler.
Had it not been for him, the total could have been 51 runs weaker since Kevin capitalised and took Kumble to task taking 16 runs off one over that included over mid-wicket.
With the pitch expected to deteriorate further on the final day on Sunday, India will have to bat out of their skins to save the match.
England's Ashes hero Kevin Pietersen set his side up for a shot at victory in the final session of penultimate day's play.
The batsman, despite a reprieve and few dropped chances, packed a punch in his performance and along with sedate Alastair Cook put on arollicking 124-run partnership.
Continuing after tea, Pietersen smashed his fifty and Cook followed up with his own, 2 overs later.
Bhajji and Kumble, bowled their heart out in trying to dislodge either of the two batsmen. But a slew of dropped chances and lucky breaks for the batters, meant that India had to grind its fate all day.
Pietersen added further salt on India's wound by reserving special treatment for Kumble. He took the bowler apart with clinical precision, taking 16 runs that included one six and two fours.
He finally departed just 13 runs short of century, but not before leading his side to a position of dominance.
Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook hammered India in the 2nd session on day four as the hosts slipped down the hole of nothingness in the face of a looming defeat.
England openers threatened to take the morning's carnage to lunch as Strauss slapped Pathan through the covers off the back-foot in the very first over.
In a matter of few balls, the duo raced to 95 runs. But their run charge ended right there!
Pathan back with vengeance, struck gold with two stunning deliveries.
The first one, shaping away late, caught rampaging Strauss' edge to which Dhoni immediately responded by diving low to his left and completing a fantastic catch. The opener departed for 46 runs.
The second one, even more deadlier, pitched in the corridor of uncertainty. Bell tentatively poked at it, but was left dismayed as the ball kissed the outside edge and landed straight into Dhoni's hands.
Kevin Peitersen though, managed to stem any further wicket fall, packing a punch with his blade and not letting India sneak back in the game.
The South-Africa born was in devastating mood as he swept boundaries off Kumble and Bhajji with amazing regularity and success, and put the debutante Cook under shade.
The batsman looked blessed with horse-shoe luck when he survived a contentious caught & bowled by Kumble at 36.
The third umpire after much deliberation, gave him not out, much to the fury of Indian fielders as the replays showed Pietersen had scooped the ball straight to Kumble.
The England powerplayer capitalised on his life and put on a yet another fifty-run stand with Cook to add further salt to India's wound.
At tea, England were 225 runs ahead with both the batsman on the verge of hitting their half-centuries.
England's openers, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, consolidated lead andset their side up for a shot at victory on the penultimate day of the first Test at Nagpur.
The tourists, expectedly dislodged the last of the tail early morning and kicked off their second innings in the initial ten minutes of the play.
Star of Friday - Matthew Hoggard - took Sreesanth's wicket as India could only add one more run to its total.
The tourists bouyed by their 70-runs windfall, got off to a chirpy start signalling their intent that they won't stop turning the screws on the hapless Indians.
Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook capitalised on some wayward fare by Sreesanth and Pathan to put on a dominating fifty-run opening partnership. Strauss, missing out in the first innings and the two tour games in Mumbai and Vadodara, was all the more determined to make a dent this time.
Dravid already peeved at their batters' performance on Friday, shunted the pacers out of the attack in the 7th over over itself and brought on spin at both end. Though Kumble and Harbhajan put on a much-needed brake on the scoring, the batting duo managed to intercept their guile.
Post-morning session, the scoreline read at 77 without loss.
AJ Strauss, AN Cook, IR Bell, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, A Flintoff (captain), GO Jones (wicketkeeper), ID Blackwell, MJ Hoggard, MS Panesar, SJ Harmison.
W Jaffer, V Sehwag, R Dravid (captain), SR Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper), M Kaif, IK Pathan, A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth.
Hours of play: 10-12 hrs; 12.40-2.40 pm; 3-5 pm
Umpires: Ian Howell (SA) and Aleem Dar (Pak), Third umpire: I Shivram (Ind)
First Published: Mar 04, 2006 10:19 IST