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March 7, 2010
It was only polite to ask James Tredwell to elaborate on his most successful day as an England offspinner, as he scalped six Bangladeshi wickets to enhance his chances of playing in next week's first Test at Chittagong. But there was only one burning topic of conversation at the close of the first day's play at the Divisional Stadium - Kevin Pietersen's dreadful run of form, and the seemingly voodoo-like curse that has been inflicted on him by the Slow Left-Armers Union.
Pietersen's contribution to the contest lasted all of five balls in the closing moments of the day, but it was all that was needed to set tongues a-wagging once again. Mehrab Hossain Jr has claimed 45 wickets in 46 first-class games, and has a grand total of four Test-match victims to his name. But a solitary over was all he needed to bump Tredwell's unstinting efforts off tomorrow's front pages. Facing up to his fifth delivery, Pietersen propped forward uncertainly, and snicked a routine edge to the keeper.
And so he was gone for 2 from five balls, taking his tally in all matches on this tour to 49 runs from six innings - and in each of his last four outings, including all three ODIs, he has been scalped by the same style of bowler. In the first match he edged Shakib Al Hasan to slip; in the next two games he was trapped lbw by Abdur Razzak.
"He was a bit upset, he would have liked to get a score," Tredwell told reporters at the close of play. "But we all know what KP's like, he's a confident character, and I'm sure he'll come bouncing back. I'm sure Bangladesh will try to use [left-arm spin] to their advantage, but I'm sure he will come back with something else to throw at them."
Quite what Pietersen can come up with, however, is anyone's guess, because his problems against slow left-arm are starting to become an embarrassment. He'd had his moments all throughout his career, most notably at Edgbaston in August 2008, when his attempt to mow Paul Harris out of the ground ended up with him holing out to mid-on, and sent England toppling towards a series-conceding defeat.
But it turned from being an incidental issue to a real thorn in his ego during the tour of India in November 2008, when Yuvraj Singh bowled him through the gate in an otherwise unremarkable ODI defeat in Indore. One month later in the second Test at Chandigarh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni hauled Yuvraj into the attack at the very moment that Pietersen arrived at the crease. Though he escaped unscathed on that occasion, the message was clear - as Yuvraj's earlier "bunny-ears" gesture had already made plain.
Since then, his every failing against a left-armer has become a hot topic - and it is starting to make a visible dent in his statistics. Pietersen's average in all formats against his nemeses hovers uneasily in the early 30s, compared to a solid plus-40 showing against all other varieties of bowling. And from Yuvraj (who has dismissed him four times in ODIs, more than any other bowler) to Daniel Vettori, Sulieman Benn and Harris in Tests, and now to Mehrab Hossain Jr, SLAB is intent on putting him in the mortuary.
Come the Tests, Bangladesh are likely to have just the one such bowler to work on his weakness, but that man happens to be Shakib, the most fearless competitor in their line-up, and a man who will surely delight in the challenge. And of course, it is an added irony that England have not even got any left-arm bowlers of their own to enable Pietersen to hone his put-upon technique, with Monty Panesar overlooked in favour of Tredwell. Adil Rashid, who as a legspinner at least takes the ball away from bat, is not here either.
But none of that is Tredwell's immediate concern, of course. He has been selected on merit, and has done his utmost to make the most of his opportunity. "I'm certainly in contention [for a call-up]," he said. "I've only done the right thing. There's less and less lead-ups going into international matches, so to actually perform in one of them is a decent thing.
"I enjoy bowling with another offspinner," he added. "It might cause problems for us if the batsmen come up with similar gameplans, but they've got a lot of left-handers, so that will come into our reckoning, turning the ball away from the bat." As Pietersen will testify, such a skill really can get under a batsman's skin.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.Feeds: Andrew Miller
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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