Kevin Pietersen’s unbeaten 202 — a carefully constructed innings that progressed from awkward caution to brutal brilliance — handed England control of the first Test being played here at Lord’s. Praveen Kumar bowled heroically for India, cranking out 40.3 overs for figures of five for 106. But worthy though his efforts were, they were second-best — in terms of impact — to Pietersen’s third double-century on the second day.England declared its innings on 474 for eight and fit in six overs at India’s openers. Abhinav Mukund and Gautam Gambhir survived to battle on Saturday.Earlier on Friday, with Zaheer Khan being able to do little more than watch from the balcony, nursing a strained hamstring and a morose cup of tea, India’s bowling attack needed someone to step up a level.
The faster bowlers had less to work with, however. Thursday’s gloom had lifted, allowing a glorious sun to bathe Lord’s in its bright light. The drier conditions and the aged ball meant there was little conventional swing or cut to be had; with the lush outfield scarring the ball little, the onset of reverse swing was thwarted as well.
Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar also had a more controlled Pietersen to bowl at. Where he fought his true nature on Thursday, striving — not always successfully — to restrain his instincts, Pietersen appeared calmer on Friday.Pietersen’s exceptional talent, in addition to his hand-eye co-ordination, is his kinaesthetic command of his long levers. There’s a reason men 6ft 5in tall seldom accomplish great feats of batting — the minute movements comes less easily.Pietersen skipped outside off-stump, particularly against Ishant, to play his famous whip-shot to leg. But he also held his stroke, doing no more than punch an on-drive for four.
Ishant had persisted in bowling wide to Pietersen on day one, keeping him quiet if nothing else. But Pietersen’s pre-emptive lateral move and Ishant’s angle down the slope from the Pavilion End made this tactic ineffective on day two. Ishant, who struggled with his rhythm (the slope here bothers even the most experienced practitioners), couldn’t adjust.India might have profited from a short-leg: not only did two lob in that direction from bat and pad, it would have also made Pietersen think twice about walking across his stumps.
Praveen switched to the Pavilion End and used the slope to give India its first wicket of the day. The ball skidded on, defeating Jonathan Trott’s favourite work-to-leg-stroke.
A partnership of 98 ended, but another, of 110, began. Ian Bell, a wonderful touch player, immediately began to time and place the ball adeptly.Pietersen survived an appeal for a catch on 49. Rahul Dravid took the ball low at leg-slip after the batsman had glanced Praveen. Replays, as they often do because they foreshorten the image, suggested the ball didn’t carry.
Dhoni rolls his arm over
M.S. Dhoni caused a stir after lunch when he handed the gloves and the pads to Dravid and took the ball for some shoulder-strong seam-up bowing. It nearly worked. He won a caught-behind appeal in his second over. Pietersen, however, successfully reviewed the decision to ensure his innings wasn’t terminated on 73.
The second new ball, taken in the 88th over, brought India sorely needed relief: two wickets in four balls. Praveen bowled a wicked in-swinger to Bell, but was refused a strong shout for lbw. An out-swinger did the job, persuading the batsman to touch it to Dhoni, who, having reclaimed wicket-keeping duties, gloved a smart catch.
Praveen then got one through Eoin Morgan’s bat and pad. Although there was no decisive evidence of an edge, the batsman didn’t review the caught-behind decision.
Praveen continued to bowl with high skill, manipulating his wrist in delivery to curl the new ball both ways. But he hadn’t the support he needed.Ishant quickened his pace after tea, but couldn’t manage consistency. Harbhajan, who had bowled better than his figures suggested earlier in the day, found he could inconvenience neither Pietersen nor Matt Prior when he attempted to contain them.
Prior’s lively, smoothly struck 71 was just the innings England, which had slid from 270 for three to 270 for five, needed. He was part of Praveen’s second two-wicket burst (Stuart Broad, the other), but he had raised a momentum-swinging 120 with Pietersen by then.
Pietersen switched gears and began to play the most punishing strokes. Ball left bat as if launched from a trebuchet, the final 50 smashed from just 25 deliveries. Such was Pietersen’s dominance that India’s bowlers seemed thankful when the declaration came.
England — 1st innings: A. Strauss c Ishant b Zaheer 22 (83b, 2×4), A. Cook lbw b Zaheer 12 (36b, 1×4), J. Trott lbw b Praveen 70 (140b, 9×4), K. Pietersen (not out) 202 (326b, 21×4, 1×6), I. Bell c Dhoni b Praveen 45 (76b, 6×4), E. Morgan c Dhoni b Praveen 0 (3b), M. Prior c Dhoni b Praveen 71 (93b, 7×4), S. Broad lbw b Praveen 0 (1b), G. Swann b Raina 24 (28b, 3×4), C. Tremlett (not out) 4 (5b); Extras (b-14, lb-8, nb-1, w-1): 24. Total (for eight wickets decl. in 131.4 overs): 474.
Fall of wickets: 1-19 (Cook), 2-62 (Strauss), 3-160 (Pietersen), 4-270 (Bell), 5-270 (Morgan), 6-390 (Prior), 7-390 (Broad), 8-451 (Swann),
India bowling: Zaheer 13.3-8-18-2, Praveen 40.3-10-106-5, Ishant 32-5-128-0, Harbhajan 35-3-152-0, Dhoni 8-1-23-0, Raina 2.4-1-25-1.
India — 1st innings: Abhinav (batting) 8 (24b), G. Gambhir (batting) 7 (14b, 1×4); Extras (nb-2): 2. Total (for no loss in six overs): 17
England bowling: Anderson 3-1-9-0, Tremlett 3-0-8-0.