England's disdain, India's pain
Disdain of the day
Kevin Pietersen's ego is still a key facet of his game, but it's not the only thing that makes him tick these days. Ever since his double-hundred at Adelaide during the Ashes, he's become more adept at laying his foundations before going bezerk, but that's not to say he doesn't still know how and when to go into overdrive. Today, he saved his most ostentatious shot for the over after he had reached his 150. After sweeping Amit Mishra to short fine leg for no run, KP decided it was time to raise the stakes and flipped in his stance to unfurl the switch hit. The ball soared over what had been extra cover for a one-bounce four, as fittingly he drew level with his ballistic 158 on this ground against Australia.
Stat of the day
Take your pick from a smorgasbord. In their entire Test history, England had only ever managed 13 stands of 300 or more, and yet, today's third-wicket alliance between Pietersen and Ian Bell was their third in the space of 12 months. When KP drove a return catch to Suresh Raina for 175, their final mark of 350 was their seventh-highest of all time, but only the third-best at The Oval. Len Hutton and Maurice Leyland added 382 against the Aussies in 1938, while David Gower and Graham Gooch made 351 against the same opponents in 1985.
Shock of the day
It's happened on 15 occasions in his last 11 Tests, so we really ought to be used to it by now, but somehow, every time Alastair Cook plays a false stroke and gets out, an air of incredulity takes hold of the punters in any given stadium. That is especially true if, as was the case on Friday morning, his departure comes under cloudless skies and without addition to his overnight score. Given how abject India's bowlers had been on the first day, the assumption had been that Cook's 34 not out would soon translate into his 20th Test century. Instead, Ishant Sharma - their one redeeming feature on Thursday - found some lift outside off stump, and an unestablished Cook poked loosely to first slip.
Plod of the day
Andrew Strauss's form at the top of the order doesn't quite qualify as a concern, but he's not been feeling the force in the past few months of action. His 87 at Edgbaston was a timely reminder of his quality, and when he went to bed on 38 not out overnight, he had the foundations of a promising innings. But what followed was a struggle, as India tightened their lines with RP Singh finding the edge with his first two balls of the day. Strauss retreated into his shell thereafter. England's first run of the morning came after four complete overs, and he didn't double his day's tally until the 11th of the day. But then, with the mid-morning drinks break looming, he flashed ambitiously at a wide one from Sreesanth, and left the field swishing his bat in anger.
Helpless moment of the day
Virender Sehwag at leg slip. Not the best pair of hands and definitely not the most athletic. Ishant Sharma had been bending his back all morning, putting in the hard yards and trying to get the better of the England batsmen. Mid-way into the second session, he angled a short-pitched delivery into the body of Kevin Pietersen. Moving across to off stump, Pietersen flicked the ball to the right of Sehwag, standing a couple of yards from the spot he should've actually been positioned at. Nevertheless, Sehwag just stood there, hands on knees, helplessly staring as the ball rushed to the fine-leg boundary for four. A panting Ishant stood aghast mid-pitch, gazing, wondering whatever happened to pro-activeness, agility and simple effort.
Comedy of the day
Thank goodness RP Singh does not have a BCCI contract. Initially it was his selection that raised eyebrows, then it was his innocuous bowling at a docile pace. Adding to the complaints column today was his terrible fielding, which was exposed in two successive balls. Pietersen, inching towards the 90s, belted Mishra towards wide long-off, where a startled Singh took off abruptly but stopped just as suddenly, having lost track of the ball; embarrassingly he could not even gather the ball on the bounce. Pietersen swept the first ball of the next over, from Sachin Tendulkar, towards fine leg. Pietersen's shot selection may have been determined by the fielder as Singh rushed nervously towards the ball, bent his knees to finish the job neatly but allowed a boundary to slip through his legs. The laughter from the Oval crowd was the most mocking of the day.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo