Pietersen blasts ton as England batsmen revel

ENGLAND’S Ian Bell welcomed the return to form of batsman Kevin Pietersen after he yesterday hit his first century since the text messaging row that almost ended his international career.

Pietersen showed his customary flamboyance in an 86-ball ton before retiring on 110 as England plundered 408-4 against Haryana on the first day of their final tour match before the Test series against India.

Uncapped Nick Compton boosted his chances of opening in next week’s first Test with 74, while captain Alastair Cook made 97 and Bell 57 not out as England’s batsmen made hay against inexperienced opponents.

“Everything has gone really well for us as a group, and for Kevin,” said Bell. “He’s very much a guy who just likes to get bat on ball, and I think he’ll be very happy going into the first Test match with that kind of innings under his belt. I’m sure he’ll be a lot happier today, having scored a hundred. But he’ll be a lot happier if he scores one in the next Test.”

Pietersen, who was dropped during the summer for sending text messages to South Africa players denigrating then-England captain Andrew Strauss, showcased another innovative shot, a form of reverse scoop, before retiring with cramp. The burden on England’s most explosive hitter is even greater following the retirement of Strauss, though Bell is conscious not to depend on him.

“It would be great if he could come out and play some innings like he has in recent times,” Bell added. “We know if he gets in he can turn a Test match. So we want him in the best nick we can. The pressure is a lot more on the bowler when he does things like that.”

England were again restricted to limited practice against spin, with all but one over in the morning session delivered by seamers and India Test spinner Amit Mishra, captaining Haryana, not bowling until the 51st over. Cook fell three short of his century when he edged a cut to wicketkeeper Sandeep Singh with England on 166, and Mishra took just seven balls to trap Compton lbw before also claiming Jonathan Trott (46).