Pietersen steadies England on murky day

Published: Thursday, March 9, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Mohali:Ashes hero Kevin Pietersen cracked a robust 64 in murky conditions to help England survive early blows in the second Test against India.

The free-stroking batsman struck one six and 10 fours in his second successive half-century as England recovered from 36-2 to reach 163-4 at stumps on the opening day here on Thursday.

All-rounders Paul Collingwood (19) and Andrew Flintoff (four) were the not-out batsmen when play was called off due to bad light.

Only 50.3 of the scheduled 90 overs were bowled after the match started 45 minutes late due to morning showers.

The match ended slightly in India's favour after debutant seamer Munaf Patel took his maiden Test wicket to dismiss Pietersen, who had threatened to put the attack to the sword before offering a return catch while driving uppishly.

Stand-in captain Flintoff, who became a father for the second time on Wednesday, won a second successive toss on a good batting track but his openers failed to provide a solid start.

England lost left-handed openers Andrew Strauss (18) and Alastair Cook (17) in successive overs from left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan in bright morning sunshine before being steadied in overcast conditions by Pietersen and Ian Bell.

Strauss threw away his wicket after earlier batting sensibly, trying to cut a delivery outside the off-stump. He edged it to wicket-keeper Mahendra Dhoni who took a low diving catch to his left.

Pathan struck again when he trapped first Test hero Cook leg-before. The England opener had scored 60 and 104 not out on debut in the drawn Nagpur game.

Pietersen, who scored a brisk 87 in Nagpur, rallied his team with an 81-run stand for the third wicket with Bell (38).

Bell, who made nine and one at Nagpur, looked set to overcome his twin failures when he failed to read a googly from leg-spinner Anil Kumble that hit the off-stump.

Kumble is now just three short of completing 500 Test wickets.

Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, Australian paceman Glenn McGrath and retired West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh are the others to bag 500 or more Test wickets.

Pietersen played his natural ebullient game despite the loss of two early wickets, firmly driving the seamers and using his feet effectively against the spinners.

He was harsh on debutant leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, sweeping the bowler for a four and then swinging the next delivery for a six. He completed his half-century, the fifth of his Test career, by cutting Pathan for a four.

India made three changes from the team that drew the first Test, bringing in middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh, Chawla and Patel.

Mohammad Kaif, who top-scored with 91 at Nagpur, was left out along with Venkatsai Laxman and unwell seamer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.

England replaced left-arm spinner Ian Blackwell with seamer Liam Plunkett.



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