Pietersen backs his attacking instincts
Kevin Pietersen has admitted his frustration at not converting confident starts into a substantial innings in the one-day series against Sri Lanka but won't be changing his attacking approach. He has looked in fine form in all three matches before falling to the part-time legspin of Jeevan Mendis each time to leave England without one of their power-hitters.
Pietersen motored to 41 at almost a run-a-ball at Lord's on Sunday, dominating a third-wicket stand of 49 with Alastair Cook, and was resurrecting the innings after a difficult start in the first 10-over Powerplay. He took three consecutive fours of Suranga Lakmal but, in trying to continue his free-scoring, top-edged Mendis to deep square-leg. When Eoin Morgan fell cheaply England were 85 for 4 and the innings never gained the required momentum despite Cook's 119.
"I feel 100% that I'm on the brink of a big score," he said. "I've felt better and better. [At Lord's], I felt fantastic. But the way that I play, looking to score and be aggressive and take the attack to the opposition, you are going to have good days and bad days.
"At the moment, the luck of the draw hasn't particularly helped me. I've just got to keep playing the way I play and, if the way I'm playing at the moment is anything to go by, I'm very happy."
Pietersen, who has just two ODI half-centuries since November 2008, knows that falling three times to the same bowler - who isn't a specialist - generates plenty of discussion hot on the heels of the debate about his record against left-arm spinners. However, he isn't worried about a pattern developing and just puts it down to the period of the game he has been batting in.
"You have to look for boundary options," he said. "In the first game I was trying to hit every ball and could have got out to anybody the way I was playing. At Headingley, I was looking to take charge and hit some boundaries and I was excellently caught by Malinga. At Lord's I was looking to hit the ball along the ground and top-edged it. I can't say that he is mysteriously spinning me out. But I am getting out.
"As I said to the press a couple of weeks ago, you load the gun, fill it with ammunition and you get shot. And it is a question you are asking because I've got out to him three times. But I promise you I don't lose any sleep over getting out to him."
One suggestion behind Pietersen's dismissals is that he is feeling it is on his shoulders to find the boundaries regularly because the top order is not generating the required tempo. Having Cook and Jonathan Trott in the top three means England find themselves in situations where two similar-style anchors are batting together in the Powerplay.
"It is what it is," Pietersen said. "We are a side who knows we have six world-class batsmen. There is a lot of discussion about it - not particularly in our rooms - but there is a lot of discussion about it. I just think we must back the players we have to get the best out of their ability and, if all of us get the best out of our ability, we are going to score a lot of runs."
And Pietersen won't be making any suggestions to Cook that the batting order should change for the remainder of the series despite his brief experience of the captaincy three years ago.
"At the moment, I have kept well out of it. It has nothing to do with me," he said. "Cook is a new skipper and the last thing you want to be doing is putting yourself out there saying, 'This is what we need to do.'
"Cooky is in charge, he played beautifully for his 100. It's key and vital that whatever decisions he makes, we back instead of questioning them. That's not good for his confidence."
Cook has also received the support of his Test captain, Andrew Strauss, who is keeping tabs on the one-day series from the sidelines before returning to the job for the Tests against India. Strauss wants the one-day side to be given more time to evolve before judgements are made, but has said he's always happy to offer advice.
"It's important to realise that at the end of the World Cup was the end of the cycle," Strauss said while sitting on a panel at the MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture. "Post World Cup was the start of a new cycle and therefore it was wrong to expect the England team to suddenly be the best in the world.
"There's a lot of hard work necessary. Alastair Cook and Andy Flower have a fairly blank canvas from which to move forward. It's going to take time and hard work. We'll have good days and bad days, but over time we'll get better. I'm very confident that will happen. I'll help out any way I can."