LONDON (Reuters) – England plundered runs in the sun before a capacity crowd at the Oval on Friday in another dispiriting day for India who are already battling to avoid the humiliation of a series whitewash.
Ian Bell (114 not out) and Kevin Pietersen (98 not out) shared an unbroken third-wicket partnership of 199 to take England to 296 for two at tea on the second day of the fourth and final test after two sessions were washed out on Thursday.
Their stand followed a rare encouraging morning session for India, who dismissed openers Andrew Strauss (40) and Alastair Cook (34) after the pair had resumed on 75 for no wicket.
England lead the series 3-0 after taking over from India as the world's top-ranked side with their innings win in the third test at Edgbaston.
Cook, whose test average had briefly crept over 50, fenced at the fourth ball of Ishant Sharma's opening over from the Vauxhall end and was beaten outside the off stump. The next ball, a fuller delivery, drew the batsman forward in an attempted drive which flew off the edge to Virender Sehwag at first slip.
Strauss scored only two runs in the opening hour then threw away his wicket when he chased a wide delivery from Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and was caught behind by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Bell, whose first boundary was a delightful late cut off RP Singh, and Pietersen took England to lunch at 126 for two.
Pietersen flicked the final ball before the interval off Sharma to Suresh Raina at leg-slip who dived forward to gather the ball but then indicated it had not carried. Although Sharma had again been the pick of the bowlers,
Dhoni opted to start with the unthreatening Sreesanth partnered by Amit Mishra's gentle leg-spin when play resumed after the interval.
Bell took successive leg-side fours off Sreesanth, the first of which went through the usually safe hands of Sachin Tendulkar at deep square-leg, and Pietersen struck Mishra for a straight four with a shot which owed more to hockey than cricket.
In Sreesanth's next over Bell unfurled two glorious fours through the covers of consecutive balls from the hapless Sreesanth, the batsman's fourth boundary in five balls.
Sharma made a belated appearance but the batsmen were well set and Pietersen whipped the paceman to leg for a four then moved across his stumps to glance another boundary. Bell was now in prime form in an afternoon session extended after Thursday's rain, gliding RP Singh through the off twice for fours to move into the 80s.
He reached his 16th test century, his fifth of the year and his first at the Oval by punching Raina through the off side for a 12th boundary.