Pietersen a sideshow in real narrative
Surrey 51 for 1 trail Yorkshire 433 for 9 dec. (Gale 148, Ballance 90, Plunkett 51) by 380 runs
Some may think this match is all about Kevin Pietersen's comeback but in reality it is about Yorkshire maintaining their hold on top spot in Division One and whether Surrey are strong enough in their fragile state to resist them, without relying on rain for a helping hand.
There was enough of it to keep Pietersen a peripheral figure on day two, from which 36 overs were lost. Yorkshire resisted any thoughts of a declaration until they were nine wickets down, at which point Steven Patterson, the not out batsman, was hopping about in some discomfort after being struck on the foot by Chris Tremlett and in need of attention. Yorkshire sent him to hospital for a precautionary x-ray and he was not on the field when Surrey batted.
Pietersen, who joins England for the second of the Twenty20 internationals against New Zealand on Thursday, will have been padded up, presumably, in readiness for a potential top-order collapse when Surrey's first innings, at first delayed by a lengthy shower and then interrupted by bad light, eventually began.
It might have come. Ryan Sidebottom, his hackles quickly rising, gave Arun Harinath a fairly stiff examination in his opening spell from the Football Stand End, during which Harinath twice manage to edge the ball between second and third slips and survived a direct chance to second slip on 18, where Adam Lyth spilled it. Sidebottom gave him a thunderous look before pounding back to his mark.
Harinath succumbed eventually to Jack Brooks, who had opened at the Kirkstall Lane End and was then required, in Patterson's absence, to relieve Sidebottom. But by then there were less than two overs left and Surrey sent in Tim Linley as nightwatchman.
Yorkshire's game plan, presumably, had been to score heavily and perhaps need only to bat once, although if Patterson cannot bowl they will be less equipped to take 20 wickets. Nonetheless, with no Ricky Ponting to offer experience and stability to Surrey's none-too-confident batting line-up, some early success on the third morning could set nerves jangling and add to the pressure on Pietersen to come up with a responsible innings with the team in mind.
If some of Andrew Gale's form could rub off, it would help. The Yorkshire captain, 114 overnight, had an escape of his own on 121 when he was dropped at second slip by Vikram Solanki off Tremlett. He had made 148 when he was bowled by Gary Keedy, the ball coming back a long way from outside off stump to beat Gale's attempted drive.
By that point, a partnership of 81 between Gale and Liam Plunkett had strengthened Yorkshire's position significantly. Plunkett, whose move from Durham has transformed his confidence, hit several handsome drives and a number of lusty pulls on his way to his first half-century in Yorkshire colours.
He was caught behind when he eventually mis-hit one, the ball flying high off the top edge, but then Sidebottom unleashed a few tasty thwacks of his own to add 26 off 37 balls before at last bringing Pietersen into the game when he sent a ball from Linley airborne towards long-off. Pietersen turned in pursuit and felt confident enough in his physical soundness to fling himself into the catch, from which he emerged unscathed and with ball in hand. The declaration followed immediately.
Barring a deluge, Pietersen will bat eventually. Whether he can do so for long enough not to necessitate an appearance in England's pre-Ashes friendly against Essex remains to be seen.