Late blows takes shine off Pietersen effort

 

Cricket:England's attempt to force victory in the final Test was severely undermined by the loss of two late wickets in 12 balls to leave India favourites to claim a series triumph in Mohali.

Leading 1-0 following their stunning triumph in Chennai, India's hopes of maintaining that advantage were under threat during a superb 149-run stand between captain Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff.

The pair had aggressively spearheaded an impressive recovery to force India on the defensive, with captain MS Dhoni setting negative fields and ordering his bowlers to contain rather than attack.

India's tactics successfully slowed England's scoring rate and then earned them two unexpected bonuses with Pietersen and Flintoff falling in successive overs before bad light halted play on the third day with the tourists still trailing by 171 runs on 282 for six.

England had successfully battled back from slumping to one for two and then 131 for four, which left them in grave danger of following on to India's 453.

But the double blow ended a testing day on a sour note for Pietersen, whose tense relationship with Yuvraj Singh was exploited brilliantly by India captain Dhoni when the England captain arrived at the crease with his side in some trouble.

Dhoni immediately replaced left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan, who had dismissed Andrew Strauss in his opening over, and tried an over of Yuvraj's left-arm spin, knowing Pietersen would not be able to resist the opportunity to dominate someone with whom he has been waging a continuous verbal battle.

Yuvraj had taunted Pietersen in the previous Test by performing rabbit impressions, referring to the fact he had dismissed the England captain in both the one-day series and first Test.

He almost achieved the hat-trick with Pietersen close to getting an inside edge onto his stumps from the first delivery and driving just wide of extra cover off the sixth.

Pietersen recovered his composure enough to dominate the remainder of the day's play, hitting 17 fours and an outrageous switch-hit for six off Harbhajan Singh in his masterful 144, but simply could not resist another dig at Yuvraj after the close.

"When the ball is swinging and seaming and you've got a guy like Zaheer Khan, who is one of the best bowlers I've ever faced, not bowling at you and you've got a pie-chucker like Yuvraj Singh bowling at you I really don't mind," said Pietersen.

"When you've got Zaheer Khan bowling from one end and you get left-arm filth like that, it makes you feel really good."