December 6, 1999

Hussain impressed with Pieterson

Patrick Compton

England captain Nasser Hussain has been so impressed by the performance of rookie KwaZulu-Natal all-rounder Kevin Pieterson that he has asked the youngster for a chat today concerning the possibility of him playing his cricket in Essex during the next (English) summer.

Speaking after the third day's play of their tour match against the KZN Dolphins at Kingsmead, Hussain said he had been particularly impressed by the off-spin bowling of the former Durban High School pupil.

"I rate him as a very promising prospect," the Essex and England captain said on a day when he scored the first century by an England player in any representative match in 1999.

Pieterson, who was making his debut for the Dolphins in a first-class match, first caught the eye when he struck an impressive unbeaten 61 in their first-innings total of 310. His innings included four boundaries and four sixes, two of which were magnificent pulls off the best England bowler, Andrew Caddick.

With England grinding out 401-8 over the last one and a half days on a featherbed pitch under a boiling sun, Pieterson has been the home team's most impressive bowler, contributing a massive 55.5 overs and taking 4-141.

And they weren't just any old wickets either. The nineteen-year-old grabbed the scalps of Mike Atherton, Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Chris Adams and was unlucky not to get more victims.

"I've never bowled 55 overs in an innings in my life but I enjoyed bowling every ball," said a tired but happy Pieterson shortly after play was abandoned due to bad light with nine overs still to be bowled. "Before the match I set goals for myself. The first was to go for about two-and-a-half runs an over and pick up one or two wickets. The second was to try and get three or four wickets in the second innings. "Nasser actually chatted to me out on the field, and he said he wanted to have a chat to me after the game. Obviously, I'm thrilled by his interest. It was really competitive out there and I really had to think on my feet all the time."

Pieterson said he had learnt a lot from his marathon spell. "I tried to bowl one length and vary my flight. The key was to try and contain the batsmen and tempt them into playing rash shots."

There were few shots of any kind, let alone rash ones, during the morning session yesterday as England added just 63 runs in 40 overs after resuming on 163-2.

Even taking into account the Dolphins's disciplined bowling on a good line outside the off stump and a defensive field, this was turgid English batting at its worst.

The main culprit was Vaughan, who was virtually strokeless throughout his tedious 222-minute innings of 45. Eventually, to the relief of most neutrals, he became Pieterson's second victim (after Atherton on Saturday), caught behind trying to dab the ball down to third man. Two balls later he turned one sharply into Adams out of the footmarks and bowled him.

The captain, who was guilty of excessive caution after a positive start on Saturday when his first scoring stroke was a straight-driven six, was the next to go after lunch, bowled through the gate by Pieterson while attempting a drive through the covers. His 103 had taken just over five and a half hours and included 10 fours and a six. Afterwards, he said it had been important to break England's duck as far as centuries this year were concerned. "It wasn't really the type of pitch where you could belt the ball around. It was a little slow and the bowling, particularly Pieterson's, was pretty disciplined," he said.

The patient crowd were finally rewarded with some positive strokeplay in the final session when Andrew Flintoff, who has yet to fail on tour, and Alex Tudor, added 85 at better than a run a minute for the ninth wicket against a tired attack. Flintoff, in particular, batted with considerable freedom, striking 11 boundaries in his entertaining 74.