Pietersen makes up his own mind
Mixed messages have been the order of England's tour so far, and Kevin Pietersen added to the brouhaha this evening after appearing to contradict himself in back-to-back press conferences at the WACA.
After top-scoring with an unusually restrained 70 from 123 balls, Pietersen said in a pitch-side interview with BBC Radio Five Live that he had "ignored" a message sent from the dressing-room with "instructions" about how to go about the rest of his knock. However, 15 minutes later, when he sat down to talk to the assembled press corps, his tune had changed.
"A message was sent out, but I didn't actually adhere to it," was what he said to the BBC. "I agreed with it but I was the batsman out there and I had to put something in place which would benefit the team. I had to get it clear in my mind what I had to do out here."
But by the time he addressed the press - and presumably after a discussion with the England management - his line was significantly different. "I thought I wasn't batting positively enough with the tail, and so I just asked for some clarification," he now stated. "Maybe I should attack the first three or four balls [of an over]. I don't like the game going nowhere."
Either way, Pietersen had - up until that point - been playing an extraordinarily cagey game by his usual standards, regularly nudging singles off the first ball of an over to leave the obdurate Matthew Hoggard to survive five consecutive deliveries. "It was a change for me to go out and go and play a bit more positively," he added cryptically, although he flatly denied he had been under orders to play any different.
Whatever his instructions were or were not, they were reasonably effective. Having brought up his slowest half-century in Tests from 108 deliveries, Pietersen added another 20 in 15 balls to inspire a mini-revival of England's fortunes. When Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison combined to add 40 for the last wicket, the highest stand of the innings, England had hauled themselves back to something approaching first-innings parity.
That effort put England's latest top-order crumble into context, but Pietersen refused to apportion blame. "It's a team game," he insisted, after Australia had closed on an ominous 1 for 119, a lead of 148. "Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes others make up for it when I've messed up. It's not really me that's cross or upset, it's just a situation we've got ourselves into, and we've got to claw it back.
"I played to the situation and how I was playing. My plan A was to rotate the strike and my second plan was to be more positive and then rotate the strike. It went well for half-an-hour and then I messed it up. I am never happy getting out. But I could have got out for 30 or 40, so I am happy with 70."
England's Ashes prospects look pretty bleak, but Pietersen was still hopeful of getting off the hook in this Test. "Maybe the stats and the scoreboard don't look too bright," he admitted. "But the pitch played at its best this third session and it's going to get better and flatter and flatter. We have to make Australia claw and battle for every single run, and if the worst comes to the worst, we'll go to Melbourne still 2-0 down.
"Test cricket is great fun. We're out there to fight and make sure that, at this time in the evening, we're all absolutely knackered and ready for bed. We did really well yesterday, especially with Steve Harmison running in like he did, and if he hits his straps, we'll make them grovel for every run."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo