(Note to readers: 'The Enemy Camp' will be the name for Yahoo! Cricket's coverage of the English press during India's tour of England.)
The first session on the second day of the ongoing Oval Test belonged to India as they dismissed England’s opening batsmen – Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook – and conceded only 51 runs. The visitors’ joy, however, was to be short lived as normalcy was restored with centurions Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen dominating the toothless Indian attack as England scored 351 runs in the next two sessions to end Day 2 at 457 for three in 123 overs.
Paul Beaver writing in The Guardian’s blog says Bell plays the straight man while Pietersen offers audacious entertainment to leave India as hapless fall guys:
Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, England's best two batsmen, are like a music hall double act, the one playing it straight with impeccable timing, the other going for the guffaws with some outrageous gags. Cannon and Bell perhaps (although that evokes thoughts of a double act in which both partners played the straight man, like so many stage pairings of recent years).
Of the two, Bell is surely the better batsman, for he has a touch, a timing and a refined technique that are all foreign to Pietersen. But Pietersen, the wildest of wild cards, is the more unsettling opponent for any bowler. Once he starts hitting boundaries there is almost nowhere to bowl to him. Against Bell, a bowler can maintain some semblance of self-respect; against Pietersen, he can easily become ragged.
This is a see-saw Test series: the sort of see-saw that has Oliver Hardy sitting at one end and Stan Laurel at the other.
The Independent’s James Lawton writes how Bell made Pietersen play second fiddle during their 350-run partnership for the third wicket:
Bell's brilliance filled every corner of the famous old ground – and nor was it as though he we was spending his time in retiring company. Pietersen came clattering in the footsteps of his team-mate, hitting massively, reacting as theatrically as ever to one of life's little misadventures, a blow on his elbow when an Indian fieldsman threw in the ball, living precariously early in his innings when the hapless R P Singh misjudged a steepling shot into the offside, but there he was, triumphant once more, with his 19th century.
On most days Pietersen would have put the sun-lit events into the strictest personal custody, milking every drama, not least the one when a despairing Sreesanath hurled the ball in his general direction, but no, not this time.
This time it was Bell who wrote down the agenda. At times he did it quite exquisitely. He greeted one Sreesanth over with successive fours. Both of them dissected the offside with such force they might have come out of the barrel of a gun. The contact was so clean, so imperious you had to wonder how it happened that this man's career had come under such serious challenge.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain writes Bell’s century shows he has grown into a man:
In the 2005 Ashes it was clear that while Pietersen loved the limelight, Bell most definitely did not. He had no presence at the crease, but his innings here is a reminder that the boy has become a man. He’s no longer afraid to show everyone just how good he is.
His technique hasn’t really changed since the days when Shane Warne used to call him the Sherminator — but his attitude has.
And he must be provoking some interesting discussions among the selectors. I fully expect them to revert to Jonathan Trott at No 3 when he’s fit again, but Bell has proved that he is now equally at home at first drop as he is at No 5. I’m thrilled that the talent we saw in the young lad we called up on a tour of New Zealand nearly a decade ago has blossomed into a world-class batsman.
Simon Hughes slams RP Singh and says he is not fit to be Zaheer Khan’s replacement:
Four years ago when India last toured England, the wiry, whippy Singh was a bit of a surprise package, working in tandem with Zaheer Khan to dart the ball through England defences with zippy swing. India won the series 1-0.
Now, fattened on the lucrative land of the IPL, Singh waddles to the wicket in the manner of a club seamer, his speed barely above military medium, the swing mainly onto the middle of the bat. He looked palpably unfit, as if he had spent most of his IPL money on naan bread. The only way of him getting a wicket was if he deceived a batsman in the flight.
As an aside, Derek Pringle writing in The Daily Telegraph mentions the Indian team have been given extra security in the wake of the recent riots in England’s major cities:
The added measures, being paid for by the England and Wales Cricket Board, are thought to include 30 undercover policemen within their hotels, a dozen uniformed officers outside, and two unmarked cars to escort the team bus.
Although the threat is not terrorist based, as it was when England fled India in the aftermath of the Mumbai slayings two and a half years ago, the players are said to have felt uneasy.
Providing the extra security for the remainder of the tour, which includes one T20 match and five one-day internationals, is seen as a means of calming those fears.
Other interesting reads:
ECB set to sign £20m sponsorship deal.
England satisfy their gluttony in partnership of equals against India.
Pietersen admits it would be nice to get the record for most centuries scored by an England batsman in Tests but reiterates that winning is more important.
The BBC’s Jonathan Agnew is all praise for Bell and Pietersen.