Ian Bell was in sight of a century after guiding England into the lead against India in the second Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham yesterday.
England were 130 for two in their second innings at lunch on the third day — 63 runs in front — as they looked to go 2-0 up in this four-match series.
Bell, showing great fluency, timing and panache, was 84 not out, after being promoted to No. 3 following an injury to Warwickshire colleague Jonathan Trott. Kevin Pietersen was unbeaten on 20.
The third wicket duo had shared a stand so far worth 73 after England captain Andrew Strauss was the only batsman dismissed in the session. England resumed on 24 for one, still 43 runs behind despite Stuart Broad taking a hat-trick on Saturday on his way to Test-best figures of six for 46 on his Nottinghamshire home ground.
India’s first innings of 288 also saw Rahul Dravid make 117 — his 34th Test century and second in as many matches after his 103 not out during England’s 196-run first Test win at Lord’s.
Strauss was six not out and Bell nine not out after Trott was unable to bat at first-wicket down because of a shoulder injury suffered while fielding on Saturday.
England started positively yesterday with Bell forcing Shanthakumaran Sreesanth for four and later driving him down the ground.
In between those shots, left-hander Strauss off-drove Praveen Kumar for a well-struck boundary.
However, a partnership of 51 ended when Strauss was induced into pushing outside off-stump by Sreesanth and edged to India captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Strauss’s exit for 16 left England 57 for two.
Dhoni brought on occasional left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh, once branded a “pie-chucker” by Pietersen, who resisted the temptation to hit out against his old antagonist.
Bell completed a 73-ball half-ton, featuring 10 fours, with boundaries off fast bowler Ishant Sharma, a leg-glance followed by a flick through a vacant square-leg.
Harbhajan Singh was introduced into the attack only for Bell to sweep his fourth ball to the fine-leg rope, before a back foot force for four against the off-spinner took him into the 80s.
Meanwhile, a responsible Pietersen took 52 balls for his first boundary, a sweep off Harbhajan.