England v Pakistan, 2nd npower Test, Edgbaston, 2nd day

KP rides his luck in fight for form

Andrew Miller at Edgbaston

August 7, 2010

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Kevin Pietersen is beat by Saeed Ajmal but survives...again, England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, August 7, 2010`
Kevin Pietersen struggled against Saeed Ajmal's guile and variation, but scrapped his way to 80 before he was finally dismissed by the offspinner © Getty Images
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Kevin Pietersen outscored the entire Pakistan team in his first-innings knock of 80 today, but it'll take a few layers of dust on the scorebook before that stat manages to outshine its mitigating circumstances. Three clear-cut chances - one of them outrageously simple - and one controversial dead-ball "catch" competed with a host of snicks, gropes and optimistic lunges, as Pietersen fought to overcome his own troubling lack of form, and haul England into another commanding position.

"It wasn't my most fluent of knocks. But in terms of the situation of the game, it was one I'm pretty pleased with," Pietersen said at the close of play. "I obviously rode my luck, but on that wicket, you've got to. It was two-paced, and occasionally the ball would nip - which made it really hard. It was one of those real grafting wickets, but we hope we're in position now to do something really good on day three."

Humility has never come entirely naturally to Pietersen, but he's had no choice but to feast on humble pie in recent times - from the loss of the captaincy, through the loss of his fitness, and ultimately the loss of his form - and it was strangely fitting that this particular performance required him to scrape the bottom of the pie-dish itself. It wasn't especially edifying to watch, and as he paced the dressing-room corridor during a rain-break his tension was plain to see, but in terms of getting his game back to where he wants it, the scraps he chiselled out were doubtless every bit as nutritious.

"Yeah, my confidence has taken a big whack," he said. "Obviously I haven't been scoring the big hundreds I did in the first fifty-odd Tests. But it's not as if I haven't been scoring runs. The dressing room is a fun place, the boys are on good form and you always feel pretty confident among them. I've taken a big hit in the last 18 months, but I'll fight back.

"You go from captaining the team to being one of the men again ... being told what to do all day every day is something that was hard, in the way that everything happened 18 months ago," he recalled. "Then I got injured and had a bad tour of South Africa - I was playing really badly there - so it's not been ideal, the last 18 months. And then the last two wickets have been extremely tough. I haven't played on two tougher ones in England in my career in Test match cricket."

Thanks to their hapless fielding, Pakistan effectively left themselves needing to take 16 wickets to break even, and therefore it was something of an achievement to restrict England to a less-than-formidable 251. They did so without the services of Umar Gul, who pulled a hamstring, but found in Saeed Ajmal a canny offspinner with a well-disguised doosra who backed up the strike bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, with the sort of disciplined fare that Danish Kaneria had failed to provide at Trent Bridge.

All of which conferred extra kudos on Pietersen's grafting performance, but aside from one sumptuous leg-side flick to bring up his fifty, his flamboyant strokes of old remained under wraps, on a zippy surface that played into the hands of one of his most troublesome opponents. "Asif has made me look a clown on numerous occasions so far in my career ," he said. "So to get down the wicket and take out lbw and bowled was probably the best option, and to play straight."

Aside from the struggle to reaffirm his status after a nightmarish year in 2009, Pietersen has also had to contend with a dispute on the home front, with his desire to move on from Hampshire leaving him out on a limb domestically, and without serious cricket coming into this series since the Australia ODIs in June. An opportunity to play a second XI fixture was turned down because of concerns about the quality of the cricket and the media circus that would have accompanied it, and instead his main preparation involved an intensive week of coaching with Graham Gooch at Lord's.

Pietersen conceded, however, that he had dropped his guard on the preparation front - a rare lapse from a man whose dedication to self-improvement has been one of the defining features of his career. A Man of the Series performance in England's triumphant World Twenty20 campaign left him believing that his game was in better shape than he'd imagined, and it's taken until now for him to make up the deficit.

"The work I did with Goochie was brilliant work, and I didn't feel in bad nick coming into the series, but I took some of my form from the Caribbean for granted coming into the summer, and I learned a few lessons. It's the mental side of Test cricket you've got to get in tune with. You've got to really keep working hard, no matter how well you're playing, and you've got to respect everything. But I'm fighting back now, and hopefully I'm back somewhere."

It was not an apology of an innings - far from it. But it did contain an apology nonetheless, as Pietersen extended his current penchant for mea culpas to the incident, on 41, when he slapped a dead-ball delivery straight to Salman Butt in the covers. "It was instinct, and I probably shouldn't have hit it, so I apologise if I caused any issues. But the umpire called dead ball before the ball was bowled, so I think, and I haven't read the rules book, but I think that's a dead ball."

Salman Butt, Pakistan's captain, also played down the issue as he fronted up for his team once again - as well he might on a day when his players had no-one to blame but themselves. To compound Butt's misery, he was dismissed for a duck in the final hour of the day, to take his series tally to a sorry 16 runs.

"It's a one-ball game for us batsmen, and if you get a good one there's not much we can do," he said. "If we are lucky it might pass without edging, sometimes it doesn't carry. But I think all the luck was with KP today."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by RT13 on (August 10, 2010, 13:07 GMT)

LUCK!! What's luck got to do with bad fielding??

Posted by popcorn on (August 8, 2010, 13:35 GMT)

I hope the Selectors take a cold hard look at KP's batting form - and drop him.

Posted by blownoutwindy on (August 8, 2010, 12:20 GMT)

Luck? Those dropped catches ensured KP got to 50. ICC need to look at this series closely.

Posted by   on (August 8, 2010, 9:40 GMT)

KP need to gain his form!! Wish he gets runs in the 2nd innings aswell..

it'll boost him up...

Posted by TheDoctor394 on (August 8, 2010, 9:06 GMT)

Um... I just noticed after clicking a mistake in my last post. Could the "about" be changed to "of", please? Thanks. :)

Posted by TheDoctor394 on (August 8, 2010, 9:05 GMT)

"A Man of the Series performance in England's triumphant World Twenty20 campaign left him believing that his game was in better shape than he'd imagined..."

Another example about how 20/20 means virtually nothing.

Posted by   on (August 8, 2010, 4:13 GMT)

Srsrly, i didnt see one good shot played apart 4rom that 4 he smashed 2 bring up his 50... Al of 'em were edges... U cant get any luckier :(

Posted by   on (August 8, 2010, 3:03 GMT)

KP knows well that luck favors the brave.

I guess this score is enough for an innings defeat, especially with Salman back in the pavilion again.

Posted by jackiethepen on (August 7, 2010, 21:51 GMT)

Not sure how much consolation it is for KP to get such lucky runs. If you have so many let-offs it becomes unreal. On the other hand getting out on 9 is not good for the morale either. Trott should have been out on 8. Then it would have been a close game. There is no denying all Pakistan's troubles are in their fielding and batting. But what does it say about our middle order? Nothing in your report, or any report for that matter, about Morgan and Colly getting out. If Pakistan had held several simple catches our batting order would have looked almost as shaky as theirs. Or is this just an impossible wicket?

Posted by amirhamzas on (August 7, 2010, 21:20 GMT)

Salman Butt..Shamesless creature...He played miserably,,cant he accept that fact! These pakistani cricketers...

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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