Both Kumar and Sharma seemed stuck in a cyclical bowling pattern; start off with a full, wide delivery, send the next three deliveries sailing down the leg side with the batsman cheerfully watching them go whizzing past, then end the over with two decent, swinging deliveries, before returning to the field and starting the whole process all over again. Sharma's line and length was off all game; his first delivery gave Dravid some nice catching practice as it went hurtling towards him at first slip (not that it helped Dravid much - but more of that later). While he tightened his line up later on, with he and Kumar generally finding a better length in the morning session than the England bowlers had at midday yesterday, India's topsy-turvy bowling style meant they were unable to place Cook and Strauss under any real hostility.
Strauss and Cook showed, in the morning and post-lunch sessions, the mental agility that has become synonymous with their innings. They only chased the wide delivers when they were too juicy to ignore; they left the more dangerous deliveries and let the ball come to them. The running between the wickets was as good as it ever was; they are two batsmen who understand in each others game, largely thanks to the similarities in their technique and general playing attitude. The morning session sparked their 11th century stand, putting them fourth on the list of openers with the most century partnerships. That's not to say they didn't ride their luck; there were a few lucky edges that slipped past the stumps, but luckily for England, India's lacklustre fielding from yesterday spilled over into today.
The India that arrived in England just under a month ago feel lightyears away from the side that won the last test series in 2007. The slips just looked disinterested - Laxman's hands seemed to be super-glued into his pockets, which puts you at a bit of a disadvantage when the ball comes trundling your way - and Dhoni's bizarre form behind the wickets continued as he decided to start taking catches with his face as opposed to his hands. India also seemed stuck in a single frame of mind when it came to bowling; the ball was swinging away from the left handed openers and barely troubling them, so why not try around the wicket and force them to play? Sreesanth eventually did, but didn't have the best of times. True to form, his line and length went all over the shop, and Cook took great pleasure in sending the ball tumbling to the cover drive.
The other mentality missing from India's fielding seemed to be the aggression. Saker's ridiculous 'enforcer' rhetoric aside, England have Anderson and Tremlett, both of whom are naturally aggressive bowlers; Tremlett, in particular, is like a man mountain steaming his way down the crease. India, obviously missing Khan, couldn't inject their innings with any sort of anger or real power, straying too far wide of the off stump and making simple mistakes in the field. Dravid, a man who has the most catches in Test cricket, shelled two absolute sitters throughout the day; four years ago, he would have taken those catches. Maybe it's age, maybe it's an lack of interest in test cricket, maybe it's just having no motivation, but the India that came out today were incomparable to the team they used to be.
Harbajhan, after having a generally awful time in England, was replaced by Mishra, who set about continuing the awful form of spinners in this series by bowling four no balls in two overs. Cook quickly tired of this and began to look more like that Cook that powered his way through the Australian bowling attack; he adjusted his stance quickly and began to play with the spin, sending the ball spiraling across the pitch. He even got so confident that he broke out the reverse sweep, something which he's never done in test cricket before, and shocked the majority of commentators, who were crowing about Cook's trundling nature, into silence. Strauss attempted to sweep Mishra in a similar manner, but missed and the ball spun back to hit the stumps. It was a saving grace for Mishra who up until this point had appeared fairly non threatening; yet it was a hollow victory, as replays showed the delivery was a no ball, something that was representative of Mishra's innings.
To the relief of everyone, Bopara wasn't plonked back into the side at number three, with Ian Bell instead coming out. Obviously a more attacking and arguably decisive player than Trott - who was watching from the stands, probably bursting with pride at Cook's slow advancement toward a century - Bell's innings began in a skittish manner, with a beautiful crashing boundary off Sharma instantly followed up by a lucky inside edged that just inched past the stumps. There was a bizzare period where Bell tried to slog Mishra back over his head for six, and ended up edging it down point, and painfully past Sreesanth. Once he'd settled down, Bell's innings became far more reflective of his natural game, as he jumped on wide after wide from Mishra.
Cook brought up his 19th test century without a hint of the uncertainty that had plagued the start of his innings. His cut and pull shots are similar to Strauss', but there's so much power behind them that once Cook's hit it, it's nearly always going for a boundary. It was a lovely way to get to a century, despite the ugly start, and represented Cook getting back on form after a difficult few games at the beginning of the series.
Bell was bowled for 34 by Kumar, who was by far and away the pick of the Indian bowlers. This brought Pietersen to the crease, and he opened his innings in traditional fashion; one stupid shot followed by a lovely drive to straight long on. Pietersen's ability to out-think the captain and his field settings was highlighted in lovely fashion straight after tea, when Pietersen's confidence grew and he set about sending Sharma and Mishra's slightly shorter balls to every available area of the field. He made a lovely 50, before being disconcerted by an LBW shout from Sreesanth that realistically, wasn't going anywhere near the stumps. After taking it to India in such grandiose style, Pietersen faltered, instead slashing and swinging wildly at the ball and upset his natural rhythm; a rhythm which is unpredictable at the best of times.
India, with the exception of Kumar, looked incapable of bowling England out; in fact, they looked like they'd rather be anywhere else than on the pitch, to the extent that it felt as though England were bullying them as they set about building a huge score. Pietersen eventually fell LBW to Kumar, but they couldn't get Cook, who made his fifth 150 of the year. India (and by India, I mean Kumar) were obviously knackered by the time Morgan got to the crease. Drop catches, shoddy fielding and general disinterest meant that Morgan and Cook could easily dispatch the ball to the boundary, with Morgan helping Sreesanth celebrate his century by crashing the ball through the covers for four. I have no idea what was going on in Dhoni's head, but it certainly had nothing to do with the game, or boosting the morale of his side; to use an already overworked journalistic cliche, there was only one great team out on that pitch today. And it certainly wasn't India.