LONDON, Aug 19 (PTI): Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen slammed fluent centuries as England put themselves on course for a clean sweep as they took complete command of the fourth and final cricket Test against a hapless India here today.
Bell, unbeaten on 181 off 304 balls, and Pietersen (175 off 232) virtually made a mockery of the pedestrian Indian bowling attack as the hosts reached a mammoth 457 for 3 at stumps on a sunny second day at the Oval.
Resuming at 75 for no loss, England lost openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss early, but Bell and Pietersen stitched a massive 350-runs partnership � England�s best for the third wicket against India � to pile on the agony on the lacklustre Indians who again found the going tough on a good batting track.
Barring the pre-lunch session during which S Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma tasted success, none of the Indian bowlers looked like taking wickets till Suresh Raina sprang a surprise by removing Pietersen at the fag end of the day.
It was a dominating batting display by the two as Bell and Pietersen struck their second century of the four-match series.
Pietersen had struck a double in the first Test at Lord�s while Bell cracked 156 in the second at Trent Bridge.
While it was Bell�s 16th Test century and fifth of the year, Pietersen recorded the 19th of his career, thereby taking his average above 50 for the first time in two years, against a team that is down 0-3 and has just surrendered the top ranking in Tests to the hosts.
Pietersen, who got to the three-figure mark with a pulled four over mid-wicket off Ishant Sharma, was on the verge of being dismissed by the lanky seamer soon after reaching the landmark, but Gautam Gambhir, running backwards, gave him a reprieve to add to the woes.
During the course of their huge stand, Bell and Pietersen surpassed the 308 Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb added for the third wicket, incidentally, against India, at Lord�s in 1990.
Bell got his runs in 413 minutes, hit 17 fours and two sixes and faced 304 balls.
Pietersen batted for 338 minutes, hit 27 fours from 232 balls.
The 350 runs they produced together came off 80.5 overs and included 42 fours and two sixes.
Among the Indian bowlers, Bell took a special liking for RP Singh whom he belted for eight fours, while Pietersen reserved his harshest treatment for Amit Mishra whom he smacked for no less than 15 boundaries.
There came a stage that Mishra was given protection of four fielders on the onside boundary, but was still being swept for fours by the rampaging Pietersen.
The visitors toiled for nearly seven hours without reward after the initial breakthroughs.
Both the openers fell to catches in the slip cordon off Ishant and Sreesanth but for the remaining day it was a flattening experience for the visitors.
There was hardly any credible shout from the fielders and when a chance did come their way, at 300 for two, Gambhir floored the offer at mid-on.
India looked good in the first two hours, accounting for England openers and conceding only 51 runs, but thereafter it was complete mayhem as 331 runs were plundered in the final two sessions.
Bell and Pietersen pressed on the pedal straight after lunch, scoring 84 runs from the third hour and 170 in all in the extended middle session.
England 1st Innings: (Overnight 75 for none) Andrew Strauss c Dhoni b sreesanth 40, Alastair Cook c Sehwag b Sharma 34, Ian Bell batting 181, Kevin Pietersen c and b Raina 175, James Anderson batting 3. Extras: (B-2, LB-7, W-6, NB-9) 24. Total: (for 3 wkts in 123 overs ) 457. Fall of wickets: 1-75, 2-97, 3-447. Bowling: RP Singh 30-7-96-0, Ishant Sharma 27-7-81-1, Sreesanth 23-2-95-1, Suresh Raina 12-1-36-1, Amit Mishra 29-2-129-0, Sachin Tendulkar 2-0-11-0.