England's Kevin Pietersen acknowledges the applause after reaching his century against India in the fourth Test at the Oval. (AP Photo)
London: Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell's second century of the series on Friday put England firmly in control as they reached 457/3 at Stumps on day two of the fourth Test against India at The Oval.
Pietersen, who was unlucky to fall just before Stumps, scored 175 and added a mammoth 350 runs with Bell who remained not out on 181.
India began well, taking two wickets for just 51 runs in the first session, but soon wilted under the pressure applied by Pietersen and Bell's aggressive partnership. Ishant Sharma, S Sreesanth and Suresh Raina took a wicket apiece on another forgettable day for India in the field, where they conceded 382 runs in 97 overs.
In the morning, bright sunshine welcomed spectators to the ground after a rain-marred opening day when only 26 overs of play was possible.
With the sun at their back, Indian bowlers, especially Ishant Sharma, ran in with intent on Friday, making runs difficult to come by for the England openers. And it paid dividends immediately when Ishant struck as early as the fifth ball of day two by dismissing Edgbaston hero Cook.
Cook (34) poked at a fuller-length Ishant delivery and the edge flew for a simple catch to Virender Sehwag in the second slip.
Unlike Thursday, England skipper Strauss couldn't discover his touch on Friday and after scoring just two runs in over an hour's play, gave his wicket away to Sreesanth.
Strauss (40) chased a wide, full delivery; and while he stretched to reach it, the angle on the ball took an edge that settled nicely into MS Dhoni's gloves.
But the in-form Bell and Pietersen took stock of the situation and prevented any further damage, though not without drama.
Pietersen shuffled and glanced the last ball before Lunch bowled by Ishant, which fell just short of a Raina positioned at leg slip. As the fielder wasn't sure, umpires went upstairs. However, replays confirmed the ball had fallen short, after which Pietersen and Bell continued their walk back for Lunch, with England 126/2.
However, the session belonged to India who took two wickets in the 25 overs they bowled, giving away just 51 runs in the bargain.
The story after Lunch was in complete contrast to the one before it. Bell and Pietersen came out playing their shots, particularly Bell, whose two consecutive fours off Sreesanth brought up his half century.
But the post-Lunch session soon turned into a Pietersen show, who stroked the Indian bowlers all over the park. The tall right-hander didn't let Amit Mishra settle as he danced down the track and lifted him over the in-field at every given opportunity. And in no time at all, Pietersen crossed his half century, in just 62 balls.
The same set of bowlers who bowled with intent in the first session were made to look 'schoolboys' wilting under total domination by Pietersen and Bell, who took the score past 200. En route, they registered the third-wicket partnership of 100 runs off just 156 balls.
From 126/2 at Lunch, the score swelled to 250 as the wicket got flatter under bright sunshine, which helped Bell reach his 16th Test century, studded with 12 fours. It was also Bell's fifth Test ton of the year so far.
With nothing working for him, Dhoni took the new ball in the last over before Tea. But by then, Bell and Pietersen had stamped England's authority on this Test as well.
Pietersen was just two runs shy of another century and Bell on 114, having added 170 runs in the post-lunch session to take England to 296/2 at Tea.
The post-Tea session began with a series of events: Pietersen's century, England's 300, third-wicket partnership of 200, Pietersen's dropped catch and Gautam Gambhir banging his head on the ground while trying to catch Pietersen. And all these in just two deliveries.
The England No. 4 hit the first ball after Tea for a boundary to bring his century, 200-run partnership with Bell and his team's 300.
India could have had Pietersen off the very next delivery but instead a back-paddling Gambhir ended up striking his head on the ground and getting it checked by the physio on the boundary line.
What happened after that was a sight where England sent India into submission with strokes played at will and a partnership that became as big as 350 runs.
England soon touched the 400-run mark and just when it looked the duo will now play for stumps, they stepped up the gas, with Pietersen taking a liking for Mishra.
Both the Englishmen eventually crossed the 150-run mark and looked good for a double century.
However, Pietersen was finally out when he offered a return catch to Raina a few overs before Stumps. But night-watchman James Anderson, in the company of Bell, offered stiff resistance to ensure that England don't lose another wicket before close.