Munaf gives India the edge

Munaf Patel’s maiden Test wicket gave India the slightest of edges over England after the first day of the second Test – he nabbed Kevin Pietersen caught and bowled with a slower ball for 64, with what turned out to be one of the last acts of a day curtailed by bad weather. Pietersen had previously put on 81 with Ian Bell, and the two had threatened to take the game away from India, before both were dismissed to leave England on 163-4 at stumps.

Earlier, Yuvraj Singh returned to the Indian lineup after injury at the expense of Mohammad Kaif, while VVS Laxman also found himself out of the side to accommodate a third spinner in Piyush Chawla. Patel was also brought in for flu sufferer Sreesanth as India rung the changes for this, the second match of three.

England brought in Liam Plunkett for the unimpressive Ian Blackwell, despite indications that the pitch would favour spin bowling. Plunkett bats at eight in the order, as England won the toss and batted on the first morning. Play was delayed by 45 minutes, however, as an overnight thunderstorm left the outfield damp and slow.

The batting side started solidly, reaching 35-0 before Irfan Pathan struck a vital double blow for his side, removing both England openers within the space of two overs. Pathan’s intervention came at a crucial time, Andrew Strauss falling for 18 in the 11th over having wafted at a wide one, while Alastair Cook was trapped lbw for 17. Bell and Pietersen then negotiated some tricky stuff from Harbhajan Singh, and a tight first over in Test cricket from Chawla, to guide their side to the lunch break.

Bell and Pietersen moved on well after lunch, Pietersen stroking some effortless boundaries through the leg side, and once launching Chawla for six in familiar style. Bell perished once the score reached 117, however, as he left a googly from Anil Kumble and was bowled in embarrassing fashion.

Bell’s dismissal brought first Test centurion Paul Collingwood to the crease, but he was forced off the field again almost immediately as bad light closed in and drizzle began to fall. It was halfway through the evening session before play began again, and Collingwood was immediately forced to negotiate some tricky stuff from Kumble and Pathan.

Neither of India’s two strike bowlers could remove Pietersen, however, who played with characteristic aggression in moving to his fifth Test half-century. He brought up the milestone with a boundary off Pathan, in typically flamboyant style. He followed that with a couple more boundaries, but was soon forced, rather bizarrely, to sprint from the field in order to take what seemed to be a bathroom break.

Patel snared Pietersen soon after that, however, with a slower ball that drew him into a drive – he could only manage to scoop it back to the bowler. With the loss of the impressive ‘KP’, England find themselves on the back foot going into day two – which will start half an hour early to make up for the time lost today. However, Paul Collingwood remains at the crease – and remains yet to get out in the series – and captain Andrew Flintoff joined him shortly before what became the close, as England accepted another offer of bad light with 25 minutes still scheduled. The two of them will need to do some rebuilding tomorrow if England are to regain the advantage.

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