ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

England's batting star across all formats

Kevin Pietersen was a genuine match-winner and often rose to the challenge against quality bowlers

S Rajesh

February 7, 2014

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Kevin Pietersen played his second important innings of the match, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 3rd day, December 28, 2013
Kevin Pietersen's Test average of 47.28 is the best among all England batsmen who have scored at least 1000 runs since 1980 © Getty Images
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No England batsman has scored more international runs than Kevin Pietersen. In 275 international games, he scored 13,779 runs, 589 more than Graham Gooch, who is next on the list. While Gooch's international career lasted 20 years (including three years in exile), Pietersen's lasted only ten, which shows the kind of impact he had on England cricket while he was around. That he'll no longer be around England cricket is a sad commentary on several non-cricketing aspects, but regardless of the off-field friction he caused, he was an immense force on it, and arguably England's best batsman across all formats over the last three decades.

Through much of his career, Pietersen was England's mainstay in the middle order, the enforcer who could turn a game around through his aggressive batsmanship and forceful personality. His stats, though, don't do him complete justice: he finished with a Test average of 47.28, during an era in which a 50-plus average was no longer as exclusive as in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In the period in which he played Tests, 12 batsmen scored 4000 or more runs at an average higher than his - the 12 were Sangakkara, Chanderpaul, Younis Khan, Kallis, Amla, Clarke, Mahela Jayawardene, Hussey, de Villiers, Laxman, Tendulkar and Ponting. Nine of those batsmen (all the names till de Villiers) averaged more than 50 during this period, and many would argue that Pietersen was good enough to be in that category. (Tendulkar and Ponting obviously had career averages of more than 50, but in the period in question - July 21, 2005 onwards - they averaged 48.63 and 47.61 respectively.)

Pietersen belonged in that club too, till the last couple of years of his international career. At the end of 2011, he'd played 78 Tests and averaged 50.48. (Click here for his cumulative career average in Tests.) He'd scored 19 hundreds till that point, an average of a century every 4.1 Tests, which was an excellent conversion rate. Then came the wretched series against Pakistan in the UAE, where Pietersen scored 67 runs in six innings, at an average of 11.16. That brought his career average hurtling down to 48.69, and though he had some outstanding moments in his last two years as well - including terrific hundreds against South Africa and India - his end-of-Test average never touched 50 again. His last series, against Australia, fetched him only 294 runs in ten innings, bringing his career average down from 48.38, when the series began, to 47.28.

Pietersen's Test career
Period Tests Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Aug 2007 30 2898 52.69 65.49 10/ 10
Sep 2007 to Jan 2010 28 1926 42.80 57.75 6/ 6
Feb 2010 to Dec 2011 20 1537 59.11 64.20 3/ 9
Jan 2012 onwards 26 1820 38.72 58.69 4/ 10
Career 104 8181 47.28 61.72 23/ 35

In ODIs, Pietersen's natural aggression and his penchant to dominate an attack served him well, especially in the first half of his career. Till the end of 2008, Pietersen averaged 48.36 from 87 ODIs, and could stake his claims to being one of the best in the format. In the period between November 28, 2004 - when Pietersen made his ODI debut - and the end of 2008, the only batsman who scored 2500-plus runs at an average higher than Pietersen's was Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who averaged 52.33; however, Chanderpaul scored at a strike rate of 73.31, compared to Pietersen's 87.58. It could be argued that during that period, there was no better aggressive ODI player than Pietersen.

However, he spoilt his ODI legacy considerably post 2009: in 49 ODIs since then, his average dropped from 48.36 to a mere 30.28, even though the strike rate remained a healthy 84.47. Those numbers spoke of a tendency to play rash strokes, or go on the attack too early in his innings. During that period, even though he still had the ability to dominate and change the course of a game, he was nowhere near the best ODI batsman going around.

Kevin Pietersen's ODI career
Period Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till 2008 87 3047 48.36 87.58 7/ 20
2009 onwards 49 1393 30.28 84.47 2/ 5
Career 136 4440 40.73 86.58 9/ 25
Best ODI batsmen between Nov 28, 2004 and 31 Dec 2008 (Qual: 250 runs)
Batsman Inngs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 75 3088 52.33 73.31 6/ 22
Kevin Pietersen 78 3047 48.36 87.58 7/ 20
Matthew Hayden 58 2540 47.03 82.06 6/ 12
MS Dhoni 112 3935 46.84 90.89 4/ 25
Ricky Ponting 90 3752 46.32 86.47 11/ 23
Mohammad Yousuf 83 3146 45.59 77.31 5/ 24
Yuvraj Singh 109 3962 44.02 89.92 8/ 21
Jacques Kallis 75 2604 43.40 72.77 3/ 20

England's best since 1980

Before 1970 England had several batsmen who averaged more than 50 - Herbert Sutcliffe, Ken Barrington, Wally Hammond, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton and Denis Compton were all in that category - but since then there haven't been too many in that category. In the period since 1980, no England batsman has scored 1000 or more runs at a 50-plus average; the best in that category is Pietersen's average of 47.28. The top four in the list below are either in England's current team, or were there till very recently. Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott are all closely bunched together, and Cook and Bell have a chance to go past Pietersen if they have a strong home season. Some of the other greats of England's batting line-up feature further down the list, but none of them could match Pietersen's average.

Highest Test averages for England since 1980 (Qual: 1000 runs since 1980)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Kevin Pietersen 104 8181 47.28 23/ 35
Alastair Cook 102 8047 46.51 25/ 35
Jonathan Trott 49 3763 46.45 9/ 18
Ian Bell 98 6722 45.41 20/ 39
Graham Thorpe 100 6744 44.66 16/ 39
Graham Gooch 101 8146 44.27 20/ 40
Marcus Trescothick 76 5825 43.79 14/ 29
Robin Smith 62 4236 43.67 9/ 28
David Gower 100 7044 43.48 15/ 34
Michael Vaughan 82 5719 41.44 18/ 18

England's best at No. 4

Pietersen is also by far England's highest run-getter at No. 4, scoring 6490 runs at that position at an average of 48.43. Among England batsmen, he is more than 2000 runs clear of the second-best, Denis Compton's 4234 runs. No other England batsman has scored 3500 runs at No. 4.

When compared to all No. 4 batsmen around the world, Pietersen's aggregate puts him in seventh place, and among an elite group of batsmen who've scored 6000-plus runs at that slot in Tests. Only four batsmen - Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Mahela Jayawardene and Brian Lara - have scored more centuries at No. 4 than Pietersen's 19.

Highest aggregates at No. 4 in Tests
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Sachin Tendulkar 275 13,492 54.40 44/ 58
Jacques Kallis 170 9033 61.86 35/ 36
Mahela Jayawardene 183 9029 53.11 29/ 31
Brian Lara 148 7535 51.25 24/ 31
Javed Miandad 140 6925 54.10 19/ 31
Mark Waugh 170 6662 42.43 16/ 39
Kevin Pietersen 139 6490 48.43 19/ 27
Gundappa Viswanath 124 5081 43.05 12/ 31

Pietersen the match-winner

More than all the runs he scored, Pietersen's value to the team was in the number of matches he won for England. He won ten Man-of-the-Match awards in Tests, ten in ODIs, and six in Twenty20 internationals. That makes it a total of 26 such awards for Pietersen in his international career. Since the time of his international debut, only four players - Sangakkara, Shahid Afridi, Shane Watson and Jayawardene have won more Man-of-the-Match awards.

Most MoM awards in all international matches since Nov 28, 2004
Player Matches MoM awards
Kumar Sangakkara 366 30
Shahid Afridi 265 28
Shane Watson 237 28
Mahela Jayawardene 359 27
Kevin Pietersen 277 26
Tillakaratne Dilshan 343 26
Yuvraj Singh 253 25
AB de Villiers 299 23

Versus the top bowlers

Perhaps the stats that best illustrate Pietersen's ability to rise to a challenge are his head-to-head stats in Tests against Shane Warne and Dale Steyn, two of the best bowlers who were around during his time in international cricket. Against Warne, Pietersen averaged 61.60, scoring 308 runs off 522 balls, a scoring rate of 3.54 per over. Against Steyn, Pietersen was even more aggressive, scoring at 4.97 per over and averaging 51.66. He wasn't as successful against Glenn McGrath and Muttiah Muralitharan, but even against Murali he looked to dominate, scoring at more than four per over. That, in a nutshell, encapsulated the sort of batsman he was.

Pietersen in Tests against four of the top bowlers of his era
Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate
Shane Warne 308 522 5 61.60 3.54
Dale Steyn 155 187 3 51.67 4.97
Muttiah Muralitharan 168 236 6 28.00 4.27
Glenn McGrath 135 270 5 27.00 3.00

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Comments: 26 
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Posted by Ben on (February 10, 2014, 15:14 GMT)

c.f. Brian Lara: Complete pain in the arse, great batsman. Pietersen refuses to bat in any position but number four, which has been tolerated at the expense of Ian Bell for several series now; in my view misguidedly. I have no problem with 'the way he bats'. He gets runs. If he could get more that's a matter of coaching and one-to-one work with him to improve his on-field performance. Pietersen's behaviour falls short of any transgression that can be addressed through formal disciplinary procedures. He doesn't smoke pot publicly, get into trysts with barmaids, skip training sessions to go gliding, punch opposition players, etc. In fact, he protects his reputation quite carefully. But ultimately he is doomed to pursue a self-centred agenda in his interactions with other members of the team set-up, with corrosive effects on team performance. It has been decided that this outweighs the twenty or so extra runs he brings to the batting score compared to someone like Eoin Morgan, say.

Posted by Srinivas on (February 10, 2014, 11:58 GMT)

Over the years people with high egos have been managed brilliantly by Boards for eg Sourav Ganguly, Shane Warne, Javed Miandad. Cant imagine the lame excuse of ECB. The stats prove that this guy is the best and people will pay to watch KP bat. They dont make these of kind of cricketers these days. A few texts, a few remarks here and there and he has fallen out with Cook. Come on ECB. Your loss is gain for T20 clubs around the world.

Posted by Harsh on (February 10, 2014, 8:44 GMT)

In my opinion Kevin Pieterson was the equivalent of the white Vivian Richards in modern times.On his day he took the best pace attacks by the scruff of the neck and manipulated the bowling moving pawns on a chessboard.His natural agressive instinct made him the best match-winning England batsmen since Graham Gooch.He could brilliantly adapt to the fast tracks where his razor-sharp reflexes came into effect.On merit he deserved an average of above 50 as he always batted in the interests of the team.His batting played a major role in England's reaching ascendancy in test cricket.Above everything he was a great entertainer.Arguably amongst the top 75 cricketers of all.I would rate Pieterson in the Peter May class.His retirement has come too early and is thus sad loss to the great game of cricket.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 9, 2014, 19:48 GMT)

Lets see now Pietersen scored more runs in the Ashes than any other England batsman. Cook failed miserably both as Captain & batsman losing every game. Cook was a great disappointment. Anderson looked exhausted. Prior was dropped AKA Vice Captain was dropped Bairstow looked raw The big bowlers were hopeless etc etc yet KP is the only one fired... Was the ECB watching the same cricket as the rest of us? He is a senior player & entitled to give his opinion on the field & in the dressing room.. He is not the KP of 5 years ago yet still measures up well to the rest of the players.

Posted by Robert on (February 8, 2014, 22:35 GMT)

@ultrasnow, it depends how you take it I suppose. I took it as the latest in a very long line of digs at the England team by Indian fans on here.

Posted by Gopinath on (February 8, 2014, 18:28 GMT)

Why KP there are hundred available to take England through. It is good that KP was sacked( thrown) He was neither true to SA nor England. That was a very good decison to throw KP. We don't need stars, we need team men!!!!!

Posted by ultra on (February 8, 2014, 17:28 GMT)

' "In India ( at least), no one will watch the English team now"

I assure you that not one England fan will be concerned about that. What we're concerned about is the fact that we've lost another match-winner. '

@robble : I think you missed the point. He was trying to say KP's popularity has transcended borders. Cricket needs such characters. KP's loss would not be just england's loss but a loss to cricket lovers worldwide. That can't be said of too many current players.

Posted by nalin on (February 8, 2014, 14:36 GMT)

I agree with Gmale about picking KP. Any management should find ways of dealing with trump cards and sometimes necessary to bring them in line but not to discard them. There are managements that get rid of those making valid criticism and go on in a state of blindness while they falter by their incompetence. Let's face it that England was blasted by the unexpected and the rigid coping style crumbled and the solution is not to find a scapegoat but solve the problems with a flexible management style.

Posted by prasad on (February 8, 2014, 2:47 GMT)

I still remember the switch hit he plays against SL in the second test and he took on the spinners that help ENG to level the series otherwise it was 2-0 for SL.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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