Bell, Pietersen revive England with tons

Faisalabad, November 22:

Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell steered England close to safety with contrasting centuries in the second Test against Pakistan here on Tuesday. Ashes hero Pietersen hammered a 137-ball 100 and Bell a watchful 115 as England reached 391-7 in their first innings at stumps on the third day in reply to Pakistan’s 462. Ashley Giles (23) and Shaun Udal (six) were the not-out batsmen when bad light stopped play with 12 overs remaining. England began the day on a shaky 113-3 before Bell and Pietersen restored their team’s fortunes, with each batsman making his second Test century.

They added 154 for the fourth wicket to deny Pakistan a breakthrough for nearly three hours, batting confidently against both pace and spin on an easy-paced track. Pakistan managed to break the stubborn stand with the second new ball, with Shoaib Akhtar having Pietersen caught by Mohammad Yousuf at mid-on off a mistimed pull in the afternoon session. But England had already avoided the follow-on mark of 262 when the 25-year-old Pietersen departed after smashing three sixes and six fours. Wicket-keeper Geraint Jones then built on the Pietersen-Bell stand, scoring a gutsy 55 for his fifth Test half-century before being trapped leg-before by leg-spinner Shahid Afridi.

Pakistan, leading 1-0 in the three-match series, had only themselves to blame for not keeping the pressure on England. They let off Bell twice and Pietersen once. Bell, on 38, survived a stumping chance when Kamran Akmal failed to collect the ball off leg-spinner Danish Kaneria. He was on 90 when Salman Butt dropped a catch at square-leg off seamer Naved-ul-Hasan.

Pietersen got a ‘life’ on 64 when Kaneria failed to judge an uppish but powerfully-struck drive off Shahid Afridi. Key spinner Kaneria was under pressure after being warned twice by umpire Darrell Hair for running onto the pitch. Kaneria looked ineffective when he changed ends and bowled round the stumps. He bowled 30 wicketless overs for 90 runs. Akhtar alone impressed, removing Pietersen and ace all-rounder Andrew Flintoff in the space of 11 runs in a fiery spell.

There were no nervous 90s for the aggressive Pietersen, who reached his hundred with a hooked six off Akhtar. The next ball was again short, but Pietersen could not time it properly and gave a simple catch. Akhtar got another big wicket in his next over when he uprooted Flintoff’s middle-stump with a fuller-length delivery after the batsman had made one.