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Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Sunday, 21 December 2008

India v England: 2nd Test day three as it happened

SECOND TEST, Mohali (day three, stumps):
India 453 v England 282-6

England captain Kevin Pietersen was finally trapped lbw for 144 as they finished day three of the second Test on 282-6 in reply to India's 453.

Pietersen played some stunning shots in his 15th Test hundred, including some switch-hits for six and four.

He shared 102 with Alastair Cook (50) and 149 in 40 overs with Andrew Flintoff who made an encouraging 62.

But Flintoff then fell to a superb catch at short leg by Gautam Gambhir off the last ball of the day.


By Ben Dirs

e-mail (with 'For Ben Dirs' in the subject), text 81111 (with "CRICKET" as the first word) or use 606. (Not all contributions can be used)



1133: Right folks, I'm off home. Mark Mitchener is doing the last two days, many thanks for all your chat over the last three, much appreciated as always. Oh, and Monty hasn't switched sides...

Wicket falls
1125 - WICKET - Flintoff c Gambhir b Mishra 62 (Eng 282-6)
Flintoff prods Mishra into the covers for one. Umpire Harper takes a reading, but decides to continue. Anderson is off the mark with a push to point for one, which brings Flintoff back on strike. I thought Anderson was supposed to be protecting Freddie? Big lbw appeal from Mishra next ball, but his googly was going down leg. Remarkable! The final ball of the day is a top-spinner from Mishra, Flintoff lunges forward, gets an inside edge onto his pad, and Gambhir takes a very sharp catch at short-leg. You have to ask yourself, what was Anderson doing taking that single earlier in the over? Anyway, that's that. Tremendous day's cricket - cracking knock from KP, good knocks from Freddie and Cook, and some probing bowling from India. India back in control of the game after those two late wickets.

Wicket falls
1118 - WICKET - Pietersen lbw b Harbhajan 144 (Eng 280-5)

Harbhajan goes round the wicket to Pietersen... and the England skipper is out. How's that for a sting in the tail... KP rather half-heartedly prodded forward, the ball pitched in line and was probably hitting leg. KP looks as if he's just woken up to discover his whole career's been a dream and he's actually a bin man from Bromley. But that wasn't a bad decision from Umpire Rauf. James Anderson is the nightwatchman, and Harbhajan tries to startle him with a dart first ball.

1114 - 280-4 Harbhajan and Pietersen share a few words after the England skipper pats him to long-off for one. I can't imagine those two are best pals. I can't imagine Harbhajan's pals with his own mum. One more for KP with a swish to long-on and he implores Freddie to concentrate at the other end. Freddie sees out the over, Umpire Harper digs out his light meter...

1107 - 278-4 Pietersen breaks the shackles, whipping Mishra through mid-wicket for four. KP bunts Mishra square for one. Dreamy evening in Mohali, replete with lengthening shadows and marmalade sky. India's over rate has slowed to a crawl now, this is a painful end to an otherwise entertaining day's cricket.

"Wasn't that the strangest piece of sledging you ever did see from Sharma just then? Balefully shouting "KAAAY PEEEE" after sKiP had played all round one. Hauntingly bizarre."
Stewart, Carlisle, in the TMS inbox

1103 - 273-4 Harbhajan back into the attack, and Dhoni rearranges his field as if he's about to play a $1000 game of Stratego. Hurry up MS, I'm cream-crackered. Harbhajan really tossing it up and tempting KP into a big shot, but Pietersen just nudges him round the corner for one. One for Flintoff, and just two from the over. The game really meandering towards stumps now, and meandering towards a draw you'd think.

1100 - 271-4 Flintoff tries to break the shackles with a big shot into the leg-side, but he doesn't quite time it and he ambles one.

1056 - 270-4 Fine glance from Flintoff and the ball races away to the long-leg fence. Sharma is proving a handful in this fading light, and he has Freddie swaying with a well-directed bumper. Sharma strikes Flintoff in front of his stumps, but it's a no-ball. A wild and windy woosh from Pietersen and Sharma has a few words. Pietersen clips Sharma to long-on for a single and Freddie makes the stand 139 with a thick edge.

1050 - 262-4 What a shot from Pietersen, switch-sweeping Mishra for four. And he does it again! This time only for one, but it's becoming a staple of his repertoire rather than a luxury. Flintoff drives to long-on for a single.

1047 - 256-4 Flintoff prods forward and is beaten by Sharma. Flintoff very nearly plays on from the next delivery, the ball trickling just past his off-peg. Sharma getting the ball to move a bit, and he has Freddie hopping with a short one. Sharma tries out his off-cutter before giving Freddie the stare. Flintoff tries to pull Sharma's final ball away and is beaten for pace.

"Re: Toblerone eating. Most people make the mistake of trying to pull the end 'alp' away from the bar, which is nigh-on impossible. If you push it towards the rest of the alps, it makes eating said Toblerone a pleasure."
Chris going off to do yet another performance of Cinderella in the TMS inbox

"Maybe Maria-Ann Tobler got involved in a love triangle?"
Martin, Leicester, in the TMS inbox

1041 - 253-4 "Is this the longest drinks break in the history of the game?" asks Vic Marks on TMS. KP tucks Mishra to square-leg for one and Flintoff picks up a single to long-off. Pietersen shapes to play the switch hit, but decides against it.

That's 50
1033 - 251-4 Pietersen plays an audacious shot, yanking Sharma from about two feet outside off to deep mid-wicket for one. And there's Freddie's first Test fifty since January 2007. He raises his bat and looks almost embarrassed, like a kid who's been shoved on stage to collect a progress prize. That's drinks.

1026 - 248-4 Flintoff moves to 49 with an outside-edge for four, but Freddie is unable to get Mishra away again and he remains one short of his 25th Test fifty. This Maria-ann Tobler, did she get the Oompa-Loompas?

1024 - 244-4 Flintoff steers Zaheer into the off-side for one. Pietersen plays an imperious stroke, standing tall and crashing Zaheer down the ground, only for the ball to be stopped in its tracks by the stumps at the other end.

"I went out with the Toblerone heiress one summer in Cambridge in the early '80s! Maria-ann Tobler was due to inherit half (she had a brother) the fortune. I can't remember what madness of youth stopped me marrying her on the spot!"
Anon - in case the wife reads this - in the TMS inbox

1018 - 242-4 Pietersen doesn't quite connect with another switch-hit, but picks up one. Flintoff tickles round the corner for one and KP picks up another quick single. Someone has just sent me an email containing a picture of two Japanese children hanging off a coat stand. Am I hallucinating?

1010 - 238-4 There's that switch hit again, but this time he rolls his wrists on it and keeps it down for a single. Flintoff knocks Mishra into the leg-side for one. Pietersen goes to play at a leg-side delivery from Mishra, but the ball shoots under his bat, ricochets off Dhoni's gloves and England pick up a leg-bye.

1007 -235-4 Ben from Swindon (see below), because I copied it. Sorry, I had to point Percy and missed what happened. That's a maiden from Zaheer, and Flintoff doesn't have to play at any of his six deliveries.

"Why is the commentary '...make contact, and because he began his stance as a right-hander, Mishra's lbw appeal is futile' word for word the same as cricinfo's commentary?"
Ben from Swindon in the TMS inbox

1002 - 235-4 KP dabs Mishra into the leg-side before Flintoff dabs him into the off-side. Good shot for one from Pietersen, a solid thrash into the covers, before Flintoff whips a full-bunger to mid-wicket to keep the strike.

"Can we stop this Monty bashing - 'Can't bat, can't bowl, can't field?' He's taken five wickets in three innings out there against a powerful line up who play spin brilliantly. He's taken two catches and hasn't dropped any. Number 11s don't get many chances to make runs, but no less a judge than KP thinks he could make a reasonable number 8 for England. I grant you Swann has outbowled him, but let's not write off the Montster yet."
Paul in Spain in the TMS inbox

"TOBLERONE" is a word play upon the names "Tobler" and "Torrone," the Italian word for honey-almond nougat."
Paul in the TMS inbox

0957 - 231-4 KP's focus has gone fuzzy - first he plays and misses with a wild and woolly flash outside off before missing with an attempted fetch to mid-wicket. Pietersen picks up three with a clip to mid-wicket and that's the hundred partnership.

0954 - 227-4 A googly from Mishra lands well outside KP's leg-stump and balloons to fine-leg, where it is fielded. KP dabs to backward square-leg and amble down the pitch as if he's padding to the kitchen for a late night cup of cocoa. KP, you're sweet like chocolate, boy, you bring me so much joy, you're sweet like chocolate, boy.

0950 - 226-4 Freddie plays and misses outside off-stump - there was a bit of late movement from the left-arm seamer. KP strolls down the pitch and has a little word, he'll want to keep this partnership in tact for the rest of the day at least.

0946 - 226-4 Flintoff pushes into the covers for one before Pietersen paddles round the corner for a couple. Pietersen attempts another switch-hit, but this time fails to make contact, and because he began his stance as a right-hander, Mishra's lbw appeal is futile because it pitched outside leg. Pietersen keeps the strike with a dab to leg.

"Yes. Create another joke, but this time based on parlance from the late 90s UK House & Garage scene."
Paul, Doha, Qatar in the TMS inbox

0940 - Freddie moves to 38 with a clip to mid-wicket before KP nicks a sharp single to mid-on. Glorious stroke from Pietersen, timing Zaheer to the long-on boundary. KP 112, Flntoff 40.

"The big Toblerones are quite safe, it is the medium size ones that result in the peak of one of the mountains embedding itself into the soft palate roof."
Cliff in HK in the TMS inbox

"Surely this is Monty's last hurrah - can't bowl, can't bat and couldn't catch olives with a blanket and a couple of friends. But he's not alone. A raft of changes is surely required if England are not to be embarrassed with another Ashes whitewash in the summer. Time for Ed Joyce to get his Test call-up!"
Barry, Limerick, Ireland in the TMS inbox

0936 - 214-4 We're back out after tea, and Umpire Rauf is having a muck about with KP's bat, which the England skipper left lying in the middle while he had a cuppa. Rauf shapes to play the switch hit, before discussing the shot with its inventor. And we're off again... Freddie pushes Mishra into the covers and scampers a quick single. KP sweeps for one and Freddie nurdles to long-on for one more.

"Come in Dirs. If you're in hospital and it's the 6am drung round you don't expect the nurse to come round and say 'I'm sorry, I've been up all night so I'll just give you all what I gave you yesterday 'cos I'm too tired to read the chart.' You're a public servant, man."
Paul in Lancs in the TMS inbox

"On the subject of Toblerone, is it true that it gets its name from being the number one-selling chocolate product made by the company Tobler? Or is that just a myth I remember from somewhere?"
Colin in Paris in the TMS inbox

0912 - 211-4 Flintoff is forced to relid as Dhoni brings Zaheer back into the attack for a spurt before tea. Pietersen picks up a single with a thick inside edge to square-leg, Flintoff adds one with a pull and that's tea. Fine display by Pietersen and Flintoff, and England have really impressed in this game with some manful bowling and gutsy work with the willow. Toblerones, those big ones should be sold with a hacksaw.

"Re: Anthony Walton's Toblerone comment. Does anyone actually like Toblerone, or does it survive purely by having a chocolate monopoly in airport duty free shops? Has anyone bought Toblerone outside of an airport? I think not."
Dave W, Sheffield, in the TMS inbox

0907 - 209-4 Cliff (see below), this "taking positives" from things seems to be a modern phenomenon. I can't imagine Brian Clough was a man to take positives from bad performances, he probably would have punched Bell in the jaffers before he'd even made his way up the pavilion steps after that shot. Pietersen picks up a couple courtesy of a Harbhajan overthrow, and KP paddle-sweeps to steal the strike and bring up 4000 Test runs. Paul (see below), I'm very sorry, I'm tired, is there anything I can do to make it up to you?

"'Jungle is massive' was very funny yesterday. But now you've ruined it by using it again. In capitals no less. It's gone from a great one-liner to a boring routine. I'm sorry but I feel very strongly about this."
Paul, Doha, Qatar, in the TMS inbox

He's reached 100
0859 - KP moves to 99 with a thick outside-edge before Mishra reckons he's got Flintoff again, but Umpire Harper reckons his googly would have missed leg-stump. Decent shout, it was probably hitting. And there's Pietersen's 15th Test hundred courtesy of a dab-sweep for one. His muted celebrations don't tell you how good that innings was, it was one of his best. It came from 127 balls and included a six and 14 fours. But more importantly, England were up to their necks in it when he came to the crease. "Is Pietersen the best tall batsman ever?" asks Vic Marks on TMS.

0856 - 198-4 Harbhajan drops shot and Flintoff tucks him round the corner for one. Pietersen moves to within two of his hundred with a sweep to deep square-leg. Flintoff plays a crude-looking drive for no run, and KP will have the chance to move to his ton off the bowling of Mishra.

"Gold coins are fine Ben, but for the true Christmas stocking experience I think you will find it has to be finding a Toblerone in there! Nothing quite gives you that wide awake feeling as getting your finger trapped between two of the triangles of chocolate trying to break a bit off when you are half asleep! The only chocolate designed to hurt you!"
Anthony Walton, South Wales, in the TMS inbox

0854 - 196-4 Decent appeal from Mishra, but Flintoff got a good stride in and the ball was curving past off. Flintoff punches Mishra to mid-wicket and nicks the strike.

0849 - 195-4 KP and Flintoff exchange singles before Pietersen moves to 93 with a whip to mid-wicket for two. A paddle-sweep from Pietersen off the bowling of Harbhajan takes him to 97. Pietersen has an incredibly wide stance at the crease, he looks like he's about to do the splits as Harbhajan trots in. God I'm tired...

Vic Marks
"One of the concerns I had when Kevin Pietersen was appointed captain was that the responsibility might stifle his flair..."
Vic Marks on TMS

0841 - 184-4 Pietersen spoons Harbhajan over wide long-on for four. Bit of risk in that shot, lucky Mishra was having a doze. AN EARLY CHRIMBO PRESENT! KP UNWRAPS THE SWITCH HIT! THAT'S BIGGER THAN JUNGLE! AND JUNGLE IS MASSIVE! That really was a mighty smite from Pietersen, the ball landing several rows back into the stand at cover. Pietersen plays a conventional sweep for two, but Harbhajan reckons he's got him next ball, but it struck him outside the line. Good decision from Umpire Rauf. KP finishes the over with a shovel over his shoulder and there are 13 from that over. Apologies, there's another 25 minutes until tea.

0837 - 171-4 Mishra really gets the ball to drift in towards the right-handed batsmen, but Flintoff is watchful before tea, smothering his work. Just one more over before the break from Harbhajan.

"A while back, Darren Gough made some comments about iffy England cricket selections. Could he have been right? He's been nearer the inner sanctum than most of your contributors, Ben. I know it's a matter of personal opinion, but are players with some past form, Bell/Collingwood, entitled to eternal selection at the expense of others, Shah/Bopara?"
Roger in Denmark

"With KP and Moores being so upbeat all the time and refusing to be negative, it is very difficult for any player to believe they are doing badly, as no blame is attached to their performance, no matter how poor."
Cliff in Hong Kong in the TMS inbox

0834 - 170-4 Pietersen works Yuvraj to mid-wicket for one before Flintoff, sans lid, dances down the track and clubs him straight over the top for six. Flintoff already has 25 from 23 balls.

0831 - 163-4 Flintoff drives Mishra to wide mid-off for a single. Pietersen drives to long-off for one before Flintoff nearly plays on, chopping too close to his body and picking up one to fine-leg. Mishra varying his bowling nicely, and KP fails to spot his googly, but picks up a run to square-leg. Positive from Freddie, dropping to one knee and flogging Mishra over mid-wicket for four, before creaming a low full-bunger through the covers for four more. Jennifer Love Hewitt (see below)? To be honest, I think I'd rather have Natalie Portman in my stocking on Christmas morning. Her, a copy of Henry by David Starkey and a bag of chocolate gold coins.

0825 - 151-4 Mishra gives it some air and Flintoff clubs him all along the carpet to the long-on fence. Sweet stroke. Yuvraj back into the attack, and there are just two singles from his over.

"One of my neighbours is 59 and has just become a great-grandad. His father's still alive and kicking too. Charles Dickens' great grandson reads out his great-grandad's works on the radio for a living."
Paul in Lancs in the TMS inbox

0818 - 145-4 Two successive boundaries from Pietersen, the first a tickle off his toes that Zaheer should have fielded on the long-leg boundary, the second and force to the deep cover fence. The England skipper now on 72. Worse selections than leaving out Owais Shah? (Scotty, see below) What about Iceland and Kerry Katona?

0814 - 137-4 Some late movement from Sharma and Pietersen is beaten. Chris (see below), I don't want anything for Christmas, except for a smile. Another probing over from Mishra. Pietersen gets a big top-edge attempting a sweep, but the ball lands in wide open space. Flintoff lunges and is beaten.

"Good day so far: the sun is shining (I am lucky enough to be in Dubai at the moment), the Aussies have lost, Test Match updates coming through on the laptop, KP sounding good (no jinxing please) and the lovely Jennifer Love Hewitt looking exceptionally foxy on the telly in the corner (courtesy of Ghost Whisperer). I am hoping the latter turns up in my Xmas stocking on Thursday, but what would you like Santa to bring you?"
Chris in the TMS inbox

Wicket falls
0802 - WICKET - Collingwood c Dhoni b Mishra 11 (Eng 131-4)
Little leggie Mishra to have a bowl... and what a delivery that is! Shades of Warne to Gatting in terms of flight and the ball just flicks the edge of Collingwood's bat. Umpire Harper took an age to give that, and replays aren't really conclusive. Whatever, England are in a spot of bother. Freddie gets a welcome lollipop first ball, a leg-side full-toss that he dispatches for four.

0756 - 129-3 Collingwoodshovels Sharma into the leg-side for a single, and players take drinks.

"Ben, can you think of any worse selections than leaving out Owais Shah? What has the guy done to upset Moores? Reminds me of Clive Woodward leaving Simon Shaw in the wilderness for years. A travesty!"
Scotty 'still on Metro' in the TMS inbox

"Something tells me A.N.Cook won't be testing the letter-writing skills of the Monarch at Christmas in 2084..."
Stewart, Carlisle, in the TMS inbox

0751 - 128-3 Pietersen attempts the sweep, misses and the ball beats wicketkeeper Dhoni and races away for four leg-byes. KP connects with a a sweep and picks up a couple. Sharp work by the man at leg-slip, but Pietersen was well in his crease, and the England skipper follows up with a cracking off-drive for four off Harbhajan. Great use of the feet, Pietersen flying.

Ravi Shastri
"Pietersen's first option is to hit boundaries, and it's a last resort to start blocking, and that's the sign of a great player. With Collingwood, his first thought is to defend."
Former India all-rounder Ravi Shastri

"Ah yes, the Tube of Shame, must have been a bad one to leave this early though. Anyway, nice of Bell to keep a seat warm but surely we'll see Vaughan back for the Ashes?"
Phil, Beckenham, in the TMS inbox

0746 - 118-3 Pietersen twirls Sharma to backward-point for a single to move to 56. England really need the skipper to make a big one here. Colly is squared up by Sharma and picks up four from a thick outside edge.

0741 - 113-3 KP rocks back and forces Harbhajan into the covers for a single...

0739 - 110-3 KP scampers a single after a guide to point. Collingwood, the DI Regan to Pietersen's Jason King, blocks a few balls before playing and missing at Zaheer. "You're a cricketer, you're not God," says Pietersen to Yuvraj, in relation to what I'm not sure. Anyone guess what Yuvraj might have said? Lovely, a little early morning game. Umpire Rauf, who appears to have bought Jerry Seinfeld's old haircut off eBay, digs out his peace pipes.

0730 - 109-3 Pietersen plays a watchful over against Zaheer, and England are becalmed following the dismissal of Cook. Collingwood is off the mark with a steer through the covers for three off the bowling of Harbhajan. Aaah, the Tube of Shame. Did you know that if you added up all the Tube of Shame journeys taken over the Christmas period, you'd have enough miles to go to Mars and back.

"Sitting on the Tube glued to my Blackberry. Having to head to my parents in Norfolk for the weekend, would rather be watching this on the TV. Some strange people on the tube this time on a Sunday including one or two obviously making the 'walk (or should that be the 'Tube') of shame'."
Scotty on the Metro line in the TMS inbox

"Hi Ben, Just finished watching the Saffers beat Australia. Great performance by AB de Villiers. Only problem? I'm not at work tomorrow to rub it in!"
Darren, Sunshine Coast, Queensland in the TMS inbox

0724 - 105-3 Pietersen sweeps Harbhajan for a single and Collingwood is on strike. Colly usually starts each innings as if he's batting with an upright hoover, and he's very nearly out first over, attempting a cut and almost feathering a catch behind.

Wicket falls
0721 - WICKET - Cook lbw b Zaheer 50 (Eng 104-3)
Cook's gone! The Essex man loses his balance trying to flick Zaheer into the leg-side and is trapped plumb in front. Cook looked in tremendous nick, and he's got to be turning more of these fifties into hundreds.

That's 50
0718 - 103-2 Funny old batsman, Pietersen: he usually looks like Devon Malcolm for the first half an hour he's in, but before you know it he's suddenly transformed into Sir Vivian Richards. There's his 12th Test fifty courtesy of a flick to mid-wicket. It took just 61 balls and included nine fours.

0715 - 103-2 The shot of the day so far from Pietersen, who picks the length up quickly and short-arm pulls Zaheer to the deep mid-wicket boundary. Ton up for the tourists. I know it's Sunday morning, but any chance of some emails? Harbhajan stems the flow of runs with a maiden over to Cook.

"The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers has said that cricket statistician and broadcaster Bill Frindall has beaten South African batsman Hashim Amla for the title of the most hirsute figure in cricket 2008."
BLF organiser Keith Flett in the TMS inbox

That's 50
0708 - 99-2 Pietersen picks up a single with a drive to mid-on before Cook drops to one knee and dab-sweeps Harbhajan to fine-leg for a couple. That's his 16th Test fifty, and the rather cursory bat raise suggests he's not finished just yet. The Essex left-hander made his fifty in just 56 balls and it included eight fours.

0705 - 96-2 Cook leans into a delivery from Zaheer and picks up a brace. Good running that, England really ticking over nicely. Cook plays a rare false stroke, prodding forward and edging, only for the ball to dip in front of Tendulkar at first slip and race away for four.

0701 - 89-2 Pietersen passes Cook with a doozy of a sweep for four off Harbhajan. What chance Shane Warne dusting off his spikes for next summer's Ashes? Wouldn't surprise me at all... can you imagine an ego of Warne's size being able to turn an offer from the Aussie selectors down?

0656 - 82-2 Zaheer strays down the leg-side and is flicked away for four by Pietersen, who now has 33 from 42 balls. Lip-smacking stroke from Pietersen, creaming Zaheer straight down the ground for another boundary. And the Saffers have done it - De Villiers (106 not out) and Duminy (50 not out) have led them to a six-wicket victory over Australia in the first Test at Perth. That's the fourth highest successful run chase in Test history, relegating India's in Chennai last week to fifth. The Aussies have got some big questions that need answering, not least the lack of a decent spinner.

0652 - 73-2 Pietersen pokes Yuvraj into the leg-side for one before Cook works the spinner through mid-wicket for four. England clattering along at the moment, Cook has 40 now from 43 balls.

0649 - 68-2 Zaheer takes the second over after lunch. Over in Perth, the South Africans now need just 18 to beat Australia in the first Test. De Villiers is 99, debutant Duminy has held it together superbly and is 44. Spanking stroke from Cook, standing tall and angling Zaheer through just in front of point for four. Cook looks in lovely touch, and he picks up four more with a deft deflection to the long-leg fence. De Villiers has his ton, and what a knock that is.

0644 - 60-2 Personally James (see below), I would have liked to have seen Dollar's version of Hallelujah top of the pops this Christmas, but I wish Burke no ill, she seems like a talented lady. Definitely better than Steve Brookstein anyway. Right, Yuvraj to bowl the first over after lunch, and he goes up for a big lbw appeal against Cook first ball - but it pitched outside leg. Cook picks up a couple with a nurdle into the leg-side and another run with a similar stroke.


"Right, time for another cuppa. Since cricket is making me angry, can I ask you and your devout readers if you'd rather see Burke or Buckley at number one later?"
James, Newcastle, in the TMS inbox

"Is a 'fig delay' (0600) some kind of follow-on to the Jelly Bean Saga a few series' back?"
Christopher in the TMS inbox

0600 - 57-2 Harbhajan to have a bowl. Cook dab-sweeps him for a single to move to 24, from just 28 balls. Pietersen plays an expansive shot, sweeping Harhajan from outside off-stump to mid-wicket for a single. One more scurried single to mid-wicket from Cook and that's lunch. Only an hour's play because of the fig delay, but that was some session. Two wickets in the first two overs, a lovely sequence involving Pietersen and Yuvraj before some top-notch batting from the England skipper and Cook. See you in 40.

0555 - 54-2 Dhoni is going to give Yuvraj another spurt before lunch, just to see if Pietersen can help himself... no acting the goat this time, KP blocks his first four balls and leaves his fifth.

0553 - 53-2 Pietersen stands tall and tries to muscle Sharma through the covers, but doesn't quite get it. Looks more hazy than foggy out there now and there are some magnificent turbans on display in the crowd. Mohali, in the Punjab, is very much turban country of course. That's an absolute crackerjack stroke from Pietersen, clipping Sharma straight down the ground for four.

0546 - 47-2 Cook is wielding a magnificent length of willow - another easy prod flies through the covers for four. Zaheer tries some chin music but Cook is onto it in a flash and tugs him through mid-wicket for another boundary. Pietersen steals the strike with a nurdle off his hip, and all of a sudden batting looks like the easiest thing in the world.

0540 - 37-2 Cook and KP exchange singles before Cook picks up another easy single with a work to deep square-leg. Long shadows on the pitch now and it looks like a pretty decent day now in Mohali.

"Please don't talk about English A-Level, or any other for that matter! If it wasn't for essays messing with my sleep patterns, I'd be asleep and oblivious to the destruction now... Ah, if only."
Chris in the TMS inbox

0536 - 33-2 Another risky stroke from Pietersen, flicking Zaheer just over Dravid at leg gully. But that's better from KP, on-driving Zaheer for another boundary. Peach of a shot that. Essex opener Cook picks up four more off the bowling of Sharma courtesy of a forward defensive, and England are really rattling along here, despite the two lost wickets. South Africa now require 74 to win in Perth, still six wickets remaining...

0530 - 21-2 Another streaky old stroke from Pietersen, taking his right hand off the bat and fending the ball to the third-man fence for four. One more for KP with an ease into the covers and Sharma's only bowled one decent ball so far. Unfortunately, Belly missed it. "Seriously, seriously, why do we bother?!" emails Sarah from Bucks. I've absolutely no idea, if I didn't have to be here, I'd be tucked up in my king size and dreaming of far sweeter things. Like being involved in a plane crash, or missing my English A-Level.

Simon Hughes
"Dhoni's decision to bowl Yuvraj for one over has done its job. Pietersen doesn't look comfortable at all, he looks very jittery in his crease."
Simon Hughes on TMS

"Let's stop beating around the bush: Ian Bell is rubbish, we might as well have only 10 men with him playing."
Paul in Melbourne

0525 - 15-2 The Yuvraj Experiment isover after just one over - having brought him on and seen him mess with KP's mind, why has Dhoni now taken him off? - Zaheer is back into the attack. Cook picks up his first four with nothing more than a sturdy defensive stroke before Pietersen is scythed in half. These are seriously dicey times for England, KP steals the strike with a flick to leg.

"What chance England actually growing a pair and making a fight of it?"
Billyboy, London, in the TMS inbox

0520 - 9-2 Cook pushes into the covers for a single before Pietersen gets off the mark with clip to mid-wicket for a couple. And there's the first four of the day, a dreamy flip to the mid-wicket fence off the bowling of Sharma. If Owais Shah doesn't replace Bell for the first Test against West Indies, it will be the worst piece of selection since Level 42's Mark King got picked to play bass at The Prince's Trust Concert in 1987. John Entwistle must have been ruddy furious.

0515 - 2-2 It's getting more and more bizarre in Mohali: India skipper Dhoni, having seen his seamers reduce England to 2-2 in two overs, calls on Yuvraj to bowl the third over in the hope that Pietersen will gift him his wicket. And he nearly does - twice. Pietersen plays a shot so ugly only its mother could love it to Yuvraj's first delivery and very nearly drags the ball onto his stumps before striding down the pitch and driving uppishly just past the fielder at short cover. KP playing the man, Yuvraj seems to have the sign over him.

Wicket falls
0507 - WICKET - Bell b Sharma 1 (Eng 1-2)
AND ANOTHER! Loose stroke from Bell and Sharma gets one straight through his rickety defences and sends his middle stump cartwheeling. I think England have had worse starts, but I can't remember when. Pietersen nurdles to leg and steals a quick single. Talking off tough runs, when's Belly going to start getting some?

Wicket falls
0500 - WICKET - Strauss lbw b Zaheer 0 (Eng 0-1)
Right, we're off and it's Zaheer Khan to bowl the first ball to Strauss, which swings away and is left by the batsman. Three slips and a gully in for Strauss... AND HE'S GONE! Umpire Harper decides Zaheer's third ball of the over would have hit Strauss's leg-stump, although it looked to be going down to me. It wasn't the most convincing appeal, although Hawk-Eye has it hitting. Dog's dinner of a start for England. Bell picks up England's first run with a drop into the covers for one.

0456: Some bells start ringing and the umpires are strolling to the middle, we'll have play in a few minutes. Huge session this for England, they could do with openers Cook and Strauss sticking around until at least tea. Lunch, incidentally, is at 0600 GMT.

0450: Kallis may have notched a 50 in Perth, but was it enough to disprove those who accuse him of not being able to score 'tough runs'? I suspect not. As Richie Benaud liked to say, "you've got to make sure you're still there at the end". The Saffers are 322-4 at lunch on the final day, they need 92 more runs. The sun is shining through in Mohali. My colleague has just produced a bag of funsize Twixes, a pipe of Pringles and a bag of wine gums. Is it OK to eat any of the aforementioned at 0453?

"Oh Ben, (0430) stop being so benevolent."
James, Newcastle, in the TMS inbox

"My understanding was that racial discrimination could be defined as being ruder to an Australian than was absolutely necessary. Sun shining, light breeze, blue sky and 25C. Great Christmas weather. England need to score quickly to have any chance. What price getting Gilchrist or any of the Sri Lankans in place of Moores?"
Cliff in Hong Kong in the TMS inbox

0430: Play is due to start at 0500 GMT, if the fog doesn't return... was that benevolent enough for you Zihannasheen?

0425: Erm, because I can't actually see the match Zihannasheen, it's not on TV. Who rattled your cage? The covers are off in Mohali and the pitch is being rolled. The umpires are out, the stumps are in, and we should have play at some point in the next half an hour...

"Why be lazy about it: why can't you resort to benevolence for once in your life by keeping us informed about drama going on at Perth?"
Zihannasheen, Kathmandu, Nepal

0418: The Indian players are warming up out there, although it looks like they're warming up for a snowball fight rather than a day of Test cricket. Anyone see Posh rocking up in Milan today? She looked like a cross between a 1930's New York press man and Inspector Gadget. Poor old Becks, he could have had anyone. The Saffers need 98 now with six wickets left... all down to AB de Villiers... Show Them Who You Are, AB...

0415: What about women darts players then? Anastasia Dobromyslova's wildcard in the PDC World Champs has got some of the old guard in a lather, with the Crafty Cockney particularly riled. Mind you, Bristow's probably against women's suffrage. And women in trousers.

"Re: AB de Villiers singing. Didn't find the promised sample, but I hope whatever he sings, it can't be as godawful as that sickeningly syrupy song Brett Lee belted out in Hindi sometime."
Alok in Oxford in the TMS inbox

0406: Still looks like the Royle Family's living room out there in Mohali. There's Monty strolling across the ground... at least I think it was Monty... Lord Lucan could be marking out his run-up and no-one would know it... Kallis has gone for 57 in Perth, South Africa are four wickets down and require 109 to win. Debutant Duminy is the new man at the crease, but the Saffers have got a pretty lengthy tail.

"The crowd are trying to rev the Australian bowlers up but they're not creating any chances and South Africa are cruising towards the target. In the battle of the heavyweights, two of Australia's haven't turned up - Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee."
Jim Maxwell on TMS

0348: Rather fittingly, AB de Villiers has got a single out entitled Show Them Who You Are, which is exactly what he's doing to the Aussie bowlers at the moment. You can have a listen to it on his website apparently.

Jonathan Agnew
"The fog is slowly but inexorably lifting, we can see the scoreboard every now and again now..."
Jonathan Agnew on TMS

0339: News from Perth, where South Africa are closing in on the 414 they need to beat Australia in the first Test. AB de Villiers is unbeaten on 49, Jacques Kallis, often accused by the Aussies of not scoring tough runs, is still there on 51. Just 125 runs needed now, the Saffers have to be favourites...

"I plan to show up for a while tonight, but as things are unlikely to be the cliffhanger we wish for England today, in fact I fear a regular and familiar clatter of wickets to ensue, a quiet word in your shell-like about the Australia v SA game. You are not a bad person to think a bit of mild discomfort inflicted on Australia is wrong... any red-blooded England supporter should... and any crumb of their discomfort will come in handy next year! Oh, and wheaten bread rules!"
Vicki, Ealing, in the TMS inbox

0329: I've got pictures now and the PCA Stadium looks like a set for a Hammer Horror film, with fog creeping across the ground in waves. David Lloyd looks like he might get garrotted during his piece to camera. "If you want to go back to sleep for an hour, you might as well," says Aggers, "we'll have an inspection as soon as we can see the middle," says Umpire Harper.

0324: Morning you lot. Jonathan Agnew on TMS informs us that he can't see the other end of the ground for the fog in Mohali, so we're not going to be starting on time... I'll keep you posted...

Jonathan Agnew
"Very, very slowly the fog is lifting, but I can't see us having play any time soon. I know the game had to be rescheduled, but why we had to come up to the north of India I don't know... I really couldn't tell you who's who out there, although I think I recognise David Lloyd's walk..."
Jonathan Agnew on TMS

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see also
India rally after Pietersen ton
21 Dec 08 |  England
Late wickets deflate Pietersen
21 Dec 08 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
21 Dec 08 |  England
India v England photos
21 Dec 08 |  England
England crushed by Tendulkar ton
15 Dec 08 |  England
England in India 2008
01 Dec 08 |  Cricket

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