Hard work pays off for Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen doesn't do humble pie as a rule, but on this trip it's been forced down his gullet by the shovel-full. He was once able to give the impression that his game had no weaknesses (other than an occasional tendency towards over-confidence), but in Bangladesh he has been carved open by the unlikeliest opponents of them all.
Even in his hour of apparent renaissance, his new and unfamiliar vulnerability manifested itself as he fell for 99 to the left-arm spin of Abdur Razzak for the third time in three innings. But after the month he's endured, he was simply grateful to have overcome the worst.
"Probably at the end of your career you look back and think one run could have made a difference to me personally, but I'd have taken 99 this morning, that's for sure," he said. "Sometimes you hit a patch when you don't know where your next run is coming from, and I've had that for the last couple of weeks. But I knew I needed to work on something, and I've done it."
That something was his weakness against left-arm spin, and to Pietersen's credit, he didn't even try to shy away from his uncertainties. In the past, to discuss such a topic openly would have been an unacceptable show of weakness, but he has realised as acutely as anyone that his problems are way out in the public domain. Recognition, as they say, is the first step to recovery.
"I've had to make an adjustment to the way I play left-arm spin," he said. "With umpires giving more lbw decisions on the front foot, and the boys bowling a lot more for lbw, you have to make adjustments. I've made them with some really hard work with Andy Flower, who was a really fantastic player of spin, and some really kind words from Rahul Dravid. I just got a really nice message from him today saying 'it worked'."
Duncan Fletcher has also been offering his tuppen'orth, as England's former coach revealed in his Guardian column this week, and with an assortment of advisors of that calibre, allied to Pietersen's unstinting appetite for hard work, it's little wonder that he's managed to turn his form around. Nevertheless, he first had to digest his glut of information, and churn through countless hours in the nets, before the dividends could be revealed at the crease.
"At the end of the day they don't bat for you but you've got to find information," he said. "I've played with Rahul in Bangalore, and I've played a lot of Test match cricket against him, and in two weeks, I'll be spending four weeks with him [at the IPL]. It's great to spend time speaking to people like that and he's helped a heck of a lot.
"I've felt fine against the seamers since [the Twenty20s in] Dubai, but it's just been left-arm spin I've had to work out. I won't stop learning and I won't stop working hard, which I love, because you are never too good for anything. This morning I figured the hours I've put into net practice this week were bound to pay off at some stage. "Everyone is human, everyone goes through a patch where they struggle, but I've never stopped trying," he added. "I've missed [being in form]. It's been a terrible 12 months in terms of my injury and my form in South Africa, where I was losing my balance, feet going nowhere. I feel really good at the moment, really rock solid, but that's not going to stop me working on my game."
On the subject of his dismissal for 99, which was the second time he had made that score and the fifth time he'd fallen in the nineties all told, Pietersen was equally philosophical. "Funny things happen to cricketers on 99 all around the world. I've had a 99, I've had a 97, I've had a 96, I've had a 92 ... yeah, it's not nice. But I can tell you getting out for 20 the other day wasn't nice, getting out for 1 in the one-day series wasn't nice. It's never nice getting out."
One man who hasn't had that feeling so far in this game is Alastair Cook, who emulated Pietersen's feat of a century in his first Test as captain, and has the chance to resume on Saturday on 158 not out, with a double-century in his sights and the opportunity to push for, in the words of his mentor, Graham Gooch, a "daddy".
"Alastair has done an amazing job today and first of all 'Chef' needs to get his highest score in Test cricket and then go and get 250," said Pietersen. "It was brilliant. I did say to him that emotion took over my hundred [on captaincy debut] at The Oval and I got out the next ball. So I said to him to dig deep, I said 'you've got a big, big hundred to score here'. A hundred is great, but 158 is even better."
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.