England v India, 1st npower Test, Lord's, 2nd day July 22, 2011

'I've never had to work harder' - Pietersen

For the third time in his career but the second time in eight months, Kevin Pietersen translated a solid start into an explosive double-century finish, as if his recent lean times had taught him the value of seizing the moment

It was on this ground three years ago that Kevin Pietersen's career reached a plateau of contentment. Against South Africa in 2008, he stroked a century in his first Test appearance against his former countrymen, and declared immediately afterwards that he'd never felt "so loved". Today his emotions were ever so slightly different. There was plenty love, he said, from his grateful colleagues in the dressing room as he basked in the brilliance of his 202 not out, but one sensed that his over-riding emotion was relief.

Relief, in the first instance, that India's belated acceptance of Hotspot technology allowed him to escape the humiliation of becoming MS Dhoni's first Test wicket. Relief, also, that Rahul Dravid's scooped catch at leg slip on 49 was turned down by the TV umpire. But relief, ultimately, that in the course of a 326-ball stay that comprised three distinct tiers of confidence and aggression, he was able to crush the last of the many hoodoos that have laid his career low in recent times.

For the first time since that summer of love three years ago, Pietersen has recorded a century on home soil. It's not, in his own singular mind, an especially big deal, for he had threatened to do just that throughout a series of burgeoning form against Sri Lanka. All the same, the manner in which he broke through was typical of the man and his talents. For the third time in his career but the second time in eight months, Pietersen translated a solid start into an explosive double-century finish, as if his recent lean times had taught him the value of seizing the moment.

"It's something to be proud of, definitely," Pietersen said. "There's been some fairly complimentary thing being said to me in the dressing room. I've never had to work harder. With the conditions I batted in yesterday, and having to face MS Dhoni for half an hour as well, I reckon it's right up there with the hundreds I've scored. They bowled really well in swinging conditions and the pitch was seaming as well. I was missing balls by a couple of inches on occasions... it was real hard graft."

The real graft was done, unquestionably, on the first afternoon of the game, prior to Zaheer Khan's hamstring strain, when a thick and transformative cloud cover had forced England to wade through their day's work at barely two-and-a-half runs an over. Pietersen himself made 22 from 73 balls in that time, an unwaveringly diligent spell at the crease that had more in common with Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, the two men who have superseded him as the bankers in England's batting line-up.

No-one in their right mind would wish Pietersen to take on board too many of the accumulative traits that those two have been displaying in the last 18 months - last month Graeme Swann jokingly referred to England's top three as the ultimate cure for insomnia, and added that it was only KP and Ian Bell who were actually worth the spectators' entrance fee. Nevertheless, since Pietersen's last hundred on home soil at The Oval in 2008, eight of his team-mates have racked up 18 hundreds between them, including four apiece for Trott and Cook.

There's a lesson to be learnt from their current levels of accumulation, especially as that was the one great criticism of KP during the days when he scored runs for fun. He made ten centuries in his first 30 Tests, yet managed just one in excess of 158, against West Indies at Headingley in 2007 - a return which hinted at a tendency to play one loose stroke too many when he had opposition bowlers at his mercy. "Make it a daddy," has been Cook's mantra throughout his career, as learnt from England's most prolific batsman of all, Graham Gooch. When you get in, go on. And today, as in Adelaide, Pietersen did.

The true glory of Pietersen's innings did not appear until much later in the piece, however. The thrill of his acceleration was something to behold, as he spent 134 balls over his first fifty runs, 82 over his second, 75 over the third, and a blistering 25 in powering along to his double, which he sealed in a throwback fashion by blazing Suresh Raina for 4, 6, 2 and 4 off consecutive deliveries. In the first phase of his career, that was his method for dealing with all the nervous nineties - and sometimes, perhaps most fatefully at Sabina Park in 2009, he would succumb trying.

Maybe this willingness to postpone the extravagance is the mark of a new maturity. At the start of the year, Pietersen spoke effusively of his desire to push on to 10,000 Test runs, and cement the legend that his early successes had always suggested he could become. During today's grandstand finale, he powered past 6000 Test runs, and by the time of England's declaration, he had nosed his career average up to 49.83.

And what is more, he did so while obeying team orders, as Andrew Strauss's improbably aggressive declaration quickly confirmed. "I went off for a toilet break at drinks and I said to Strauss if you want to pull us off now, then pull us off now," he said. "We had quite a few runs, so it wasn't about double-hundred for me. It was about the team being in a good position going forward in this Test match."

They certainly are in a good position, with Pietersen's timely input ensuring they have now gone seven consecutive innings without being dismissed for less than 450. And once again, his eye for the grand occasion is in full evidence. Just as his innings defined England's victory platform in the crucial first win of the Ashes, so he now has laid claim to the first round of Test cricket's current world heavyweight bout. His backpage-catching strongman pose on reaching 200 was the biggest extravagance of his day - that, and an aborted switch hit off Harbhajan Singh, when the beleaguered offspinner spotted him flipping in his stance with his 150 already on the board.

"You go through good, you go through bad, but if you're being true to yourself, you do your hard work and do the business," Pietersen said. "If you do the hard work that I do you have to be rewarded."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kumar on July 23, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    @tiger11, I am not arguing of #1 spot but first of all SA is far lesser to India is fighting back. Secondly India had won in AUS and SL and not sure of SA. And India is the one who started downfall for mighty AUS in 2008. If you clearly understand India has managed even without great bowling attack like SA and AUS had and that is called fighting spirit. I agree earlier India's bowling was not great but it was decent enough in addition to fighting spirit. Indian bowlers lack confidence. Just imagine what if Indian bowlers like Ishant and Sreeshanth gain confidence.

  • kumar on July 23, 2011, 13:18 GMT

    @gerardpereira20, if India doesn't accept DRS everyone says India is trying to rule the cricket and if it accepts mistakes try to rule Indian cricket. Besides to this Indians already missed some good oppurtunities and then Zaheer's injury. Not criticizing ENG and ofcourse KP played well but to be frank ENG obviously had lot of luck with many survivals and Zaheer's injury. At the end what ever happened is all part of game.

  • David on July 23, 2011, 13:08 GMT

    I have been among those calling for KP to be dropped, but frankly he did bat very well yesterday. The bowling may not have been outstanding, but he batted with a rare maturity and deserves credit for the intelligence with which he played. I am happy to eat my words, although I still want to see young Taylor given his chance, maybe for Morgan ... Knowing my judgment, Morgan will now score a brilliant double century in his next innings.

  • fabian on July 23, 2011, 12:22 GMT

    First of all congratulations to KP for his great double ton.All players go through lean patches at some point or another. But 'Form is temporary and class is permanent' and KP is definitely a class act. It wasn't easy for him to bat against the Indian seamers first up but he grafted and it paid off. This is going to be a great series between 2 tough teams. From Pakistan supporter.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    KP finds form agst a pathetic Indian attack. PK's face saving performance, a sign to come. MS really knows how to get in the record books, so much for captaincy.

  • dinesh on July 23, 2011, 11:36 GMT

    The truth is southafrica deserves to be the no1 test side. they have won everywhere in world. i don;t know may be not in srilanka, but it will happen too soon. And india they haven't won in aus, sri, Sa. they simply don,t deserve to be no 1.( i m an indian for ur info.)

  • gerard on July 23, 2011, 9:35 GMT

    Guys some of you think I am cribbing about a grassed catch. I admit I was not at the ground but I was listening to the commentary on the car radio .Both Michael Vaughan and Geoffry Boycott thought it was a clean catch and were surprised it wasn't given. I saw the catch later on TV several times and also thought it was clean. At the end of the day you see what you want to see. Morgan walked because he knew he nicked the ball hats off to him. Hot spot showed that he hadn't nicked the ball. Who is right? If hot spot technology cannot be relied upon who is to say Pietersen did not nick the ball from Dhoni. The BCCI must be kicking themselves for buckling under pressure and accepting an unreliable DRS system.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2011, 9:32 GMT

    this test is going towards draw....because i don't see any reason that india can't score 500 Runs on this pitch....it was the 1st day if india would have batted then it would have been a different story all together

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2011, 9:19 GMT

    Just becuase Indian team is ranked world No 1(without winning a test series in Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka), it is unfair to compare them as the record breaking legendary Australian team of last decade. It will create un necessary pressure on Indian team which is full of promise.

  • sri on July 23, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    @5wombats "Of the two of us I know who has his facts right" I watched the game in TV and Zaheer did not bowl at all and his absence did hurt india. I am not saying he wouldn't have scored against zaheer but as i said earlier raina , dhoni taking the bowlers job is the worst thing than can happen in test cricket. It certainly did help him get his 200.

    BTW are you going today as well?

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