Surrey v Lancashire, 3rd day, Guildford July 13, 2012

Pietersen knock entices England


Surrey 430 for 5 (Pietersen 234*, de Bruyn 94) trail Lancashire 485 (Croft 154*, Horton 110) by 55 runs

Kevin Pietersen, with a double-century of the highest class, did not so much nudge the England selectors as grab them by the throat and roar 'pick me' in their faces.

The selectors meet this weekend to pick the 30-man preliminary England squad for September's World T20. This squad must be submitted to the ICC on July 18 and, while Pietersen had previously announced his retirement from limited-overs international cricket, all the evidence of recent days suggest he is having second thoughts

While Pietersen and Co. may hope to persuade the ECB to rethink their policy of insisting that players must be available for both forms of limited-overs cricket to be considered for either, there seems little chance of that happening. Andy Flower refused to back down when confronted by Robert Mugabe; he is most unlikely to back down now.

It is hard to see a middle course, a course where Pietersen is rested for more ODIs than his colleagues, but perhaps it may be found. His Test career and his IPL future seemingly remain assured.

There may be other doubts. There may be doubts over whether his teammates want him back; whether his request for a somewhat easier schedule should be heeded and whether it is fair for the likes of Alex Hales, Ravi Bopara and Ian Bell - the men who have flourished in his place - to potentially make way for his return. There may be doubts, too, over whether England need such a distraction just as they begin an important Test series against South Africa.

But there should be no doubting Pietersen's class. He was, after all, man of the tournament when England won the World T20 in 2010 and, since returning to form in the ODI series against Pakistan, has produced some of the finest performances of his life.

This, by any standards, was an extraordinary innings. It was not just that Pietersen hit the fastest first-class century of the season - 93 balls with 13 fours and three sixes - or that he went on to hit the fastest double-century of the season - 170 balls, 25 fours and seven sixes - but that he bullied the bowling - the bowling of the county champions, no less - with a dominance rarely witnessed in the professional game. It was an innings that would have made Sri Viv Richards proud. And there really isn't higher praise than that.

Indeed, in years to come, those lucky enough to have been at Guildford for the third day of this game may reflect that they were blessed to witness greatness in action. Pietersen, in compiling the seventh double-century of his first-class career, a chanceless affair, provided a medley of his greatest hits: the ferocious cut shot; the impudent scoop; the outrageous switch-hit; the murderous pull; the dismissive slog-sweep and the gentle sweep; the magical flick through mid-wicket and, most of all, the thundering drive over the bowlers' heads that brought majority of his sixes.

And, it was interspersed throughout with quick singles and deft touches that spoke volumes for his fitness and his hunger for runs. Some of us are fortunate to watch many fine innings and many worthy centuries. This one, for its range of stroke and its complete mastery over decent opposition, stood out. It really does not get any better.

Poor Simon Kerrigan bore the brunt of Pietersen's assault. Kerrigan, a left-arm spinner of unusual skill and promise, was the victim of seven of Pietersen's eight sixes and conceded 152 in his 23 overs. Only late in the day did Kerrigan allow the assault to affect him. For the most part he bowled well, but was unfortunate enough to come up against a great batsmen in murderous mood. Even Pietersen admitted that this innings was "right up there" among his best

"Simon has bowled at a very good international cricketer on a tough pitch with short boundaries," Lancashire coach Peter Moores said. "It won't be the first time KP's attacked a spinner. Simon's had his days. He got his nine-for against Hampshire, but you've got to take both sides as a cricketer."

Some perspective is probably required. The pitch was flat, the bowling decent, though far from exceptional and the outfield is both short and fast. But Surrey were actually under some pressure when Pietersen walked to the crease and, bearing in mind the traumatic events of recent weeks, this was an important innings. Bearing in mind he remains unbeaten, Pietersen may even be able to build a match-winning lead on the final day.

"It's been a very traumatic time for the management and everyone at the club," Pietersen said afterwards as he reflected on the death of Tom Maynard. "Today was a day that the boys needed. I said that I wanted to come back and put smiles on the guys' faces. The boys have gelled real tight in the dressing room, some of them will be lifelong friends after all the stuff that they've been through and this was just a good day for Surrey."

It was, oddly enough, only Pietersen's second championship century since his Test debut in 2005. He has made 20 Test centuries in that time, but his last in the championship came on May 7, 2008 at Taunton. It is his 43rd first-class century, but his first for Surrey.

Pietersen's brilliance utterly overshadowed several other worthy performances on an enjoyable day's cricket. Not only did Zander de Bruyn make a splendid 94 in helping Pietersen add 181 in 35 overs, but Steven Croft extended his overnight total to the highest score of career in the morning session. Croft added 50 in 35 balls with six fours and a six as Lancashire scored 60 in 37 minutes to set up their declaration.

It left Surrey requiring 336 just to avoid the follow-on. And, after Rory Burns, having fielded for two-and-half days, was bowled first ball, leaving one that turned out to be very straight, that looked some way distant. But, on a wonderful day of almost 500 runs, everything else seemed trivial compared to the excellence of Pietersen.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    idmjothl writes, "KP please come back". I plead, "ECB please, please allow KP to come back. He is one of the true greats of cricket history."

  • John on July 14, 2012, 19:53 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer on (July 14 2012, 08:16 AM GMT) You missed out Bell's form. Jackiethepen will never forgive you for forgetting Bell.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2012, 17:45 GMT

    Mr. Dobell, there's a small mistake in Paragraph 7 line 5. You've written 'Sri' Vivian Richards.

  • Peter on July 14, 2012, 17:00 GMT

    Good to see him in form in 1st class cricket just before the SA series, along with Strauss, who might potentially have been disadvantaged by their absence from the ODI side at the same time as this nonsensical mid-season break from proper cricket. But that's about it. All this media talk (lapped up by some contributors here) about his trying to persuade the ECB to adjust their overall team selection rules for him are just so much nonsense. 1. He has known all along exactly the terms of availability for selection. 2.He has been rested for at least one whole series in the recent past, with his long-term welfare in mind, as has Strauss & one or two others. 3.His pleas for understanding over the playing schedule therefore simply do not hold water. If he wants to see his family , simply avoid the ridiculous distraction of irrelevant activities such as the utterly meaningless IPL, which prevents necessary rest at the proper time, leading to his crocodile tears over difficult schedules.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2012, 14:34 GMT

    Just as i said would happen. Kevin Peterson the attention junkie has decided to play all three formats. This is what i think happened. I think he felt that England needed him and would crumble in odi's and 20/20 when he retired. But he got the shock of his life when he realised that bell, promoted to open, succeeded in that role and that England could do without him. Then realising that he couldn't hold the team to ransom or be begged to return, decided that his retirement bluff wasn't worth much. So he tucked his tail between his legs and (as i expected and mentioned on cricinfo) unretired.

  • John on July 14, 2012, 14:23 GMT

    @Henrik Lovén on (July 13 2012, 23:36 PM GMT) Swings and roundabouts there. By the same token , last season Lancs were luckier than others with the weather. It's not like football where if a match is washed out it gets replayed etc

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    this man is right there among best players of all time.he must be in the world t20 squad.and more importantly,it is not in england.alex hales is good but not experienced enuf.but talking of this knock,i pray king kev keeps his form intact against to see steyn,morkel,philander vs KP.the upcoming series is undoubtedly the series of the year.add to that,the KP factor makes it more special for his can we see 3 more 100s from him?i pray for that.

  • Cricinfouser on July 14, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    'It was, oddly enough, only Pietersen's second championship century since his Test debut in 2005' - he's played 6 championship matches during that period, so it's not that odd.

  • Mark on July 14, 2012, 8:16 GMT

    Amazing stuff. KP is KP and no one in the modern game can destroy a side as he can. Watch out South Africa! Strauss and KP are ready. Bopara, Prior and Trott are in form. Only Cook does not have a big score.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    I suspect this was KPs plan all along! Nice little rest, un-retire just before the World T20 squad is announced. Hope he's welcomed back in any case.

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