Twin tons power England
Bell and Pietersen share 350-run stand at the Oval
Last Updated: 20/08/11 7:29pm
Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen both struck centuries in a third-wicket stand of 350 as England piled up 475-3 by stumps on day two of the final Test against India.
Pietersen contributed 175 before finally being dismissed shortly before the close, while Bell finished unbeaten on 181, his fifth hundred in 11 Test innings during the calender year.
India had removed England's openers inside the first hour but, from 97-2, their search for a third breakthrough lasted almost until the close, which did not come until 7pm in order to make up time lost on day one.
The tourists' ragged fielding betrayed their frayed mindset as they seek to avoid the defeat that would complete a 4-0 whitewash for England, who have already overtaken them at the top of the Test rankings.
England's openers had eased to 75-0 in the 26 overs possible before rain ended day one at lunchtime.
But India made a positive start to day two, Ishant Sharma (1-81) removing Alastair Cook with the fifth ball before any addition to the scoreboard.
Cook (34) followed an away swinger and the resulting edge nestled safely in the hands of Virender Sehwag at first slip.
Despite ideal batting conditions - blue skies and a flat pitch - Andrew Strauss (40) struggled to get going and had added just two runs to his total when he chased a wide delivery from Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (1-95) through to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
That brought Bell and Pietersen together and they were circumspect in the hour before lunch, which came with England on 126-2.
But the roles were reversed in the first 10 overs of the afternoon as 59 runs were plundered.
Pietersen announced himself first with dismissive boundaries off leg-spinner Amit Mishra (0-129) - and then Bell dispatched Sreesanth for four fours in five balls.
The third-wicket duo's domination brought them 170 unbeaten runs from 38 overs in an extended second session as their stand, England's ninth of 100 or more in this series, reached 199.
Bell had brought up his 16th Test hundred from 181 balls in the afternoon but Pietersen had to spend the 20-minute tea break on 98 before returning to complete his own landmark.
He did not have to wait long, swatting Sharma's first offering after the interval to the midwicket boundary to complete a 148-ball ton, his 19th in Tests.
Pietersen top edged his next delivery attempting to repeat the dose but Gautam Gambhir, back-pedalling from mid-on, grassed the chance.
And it was a costly miss as Pietersen upped the tempo and unfurled his full repertoire, including the reverse pull, against a weary attack.
Bell almost kept pace; slamming back-to-back sixes off Mishra after both batsmen had gone past the 150 mark.
The stand, England's record for any wicket against India, was finally broken at 350 by the part-time spin of Suresh Raina (1-36), who took a tumbling catch in his follow through to remove Pietersen with less than 20 minutes' play remaining.
At 448-3, England still felt the need to send in a nightwatchman, James Anderson (3no) joining Bell through to the close.