India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 2nd day November 24, 2012

Pietersen justifies his reintegration

By demonstrating talents that none of his colleagues posses, Kevin Pietersen proved why his return to the England team was necessary

If anyone required a reminder of the considerable attributes of Kevin Pietersen, they were provided an adequate recap on the second day in Mumbai.

This innings showed why Pietersen had to be "reintegrated" into the England team. On a pitch on which all other batsmen have struggled to lift their strike-rate above 50 runs per 100 balls, Pietersen compiled a half-century from just 63 deliveries and contributed 62 of an unbroken partnership of 110 with Alastair Cook that has earned England a decent foothold in an increasingly intriguing game. His talent is precious and rare. It was surely right that England found a way through the tangled debris of the summer fallout and returned him to the international stage where he belongs.

When Pietersen walked to the crease, England had just lost two wickets for two runs and were in danger of folding once again against an energised spin attack that sensed blood. But Pietersen drove his first ball, a friendly half-volley well outside off stump, for four and, used his reach, strength and confidence to create scoring opportunities that none of his colleagues could replicate. The result was to ease the pressure on Cook and transfer it, partially at least, to the opposition bowlers.

That first ball to Pietersen was surely significant. Confidence is key to Pietersen's batting and, at his best, he struts, poses and revels in the spot light. But, in Ahmedabad, he appeared nervous, diffident and as if he had lost belief in his own extravagant abilities. Here, the loose delivery offered by Harbhajan Singh allowed Pietersen to settle quickly and show the confident character that can intimidate bowlers. By showing a willingness to come down the pitch, he persuaded Harbhajan to drop short and, against the left-arm spin of Pragyan Ojha - supposedly his nemesis - Pietersen appeared reassuringly positive in defence and attack.

This was England's best day of the series to date. While that is not a particularly competitive category, it should encourage England that they have, arguably, had the better of five out of six sessions in this game. They made life desperately hard for themselves by losing so limply in the first Test, but have shown some character in bouncing back.

Their spinners lost little in comparison to India's. While both sets have found turn, it is England's - and Monty Panesar in particular - who has found the more unsettling bounce. While it is unlikely to provoke a rethink of the pitches that India will desire in this series, it was a reminder that England, with two high-class spinners of their own, are not without weapons in such conditions. India lost 9 for 199 against Graeme Swann and Panesar and only progressed at two-and-a-half an over.

Asked to open in alien conditions against a talented spin attack, he has demonstrated an admirably unflustered temperament.
An assured start to Nick Compton's Test career

But it was Cook who again did more than anyone to wrestle England into a decent position. England's captain may never become a great orator or a tactical genius, but such qualities are often overrated. If leadership is judged more in terms of inspiring by example and shaping the team's fortunes through individual performance, then Cook must rate very highly indeed. He is on the cusp of his 22nd Test century, which would equal the most by an Englishman, and within sight of his 7,000th Test run. To have achieved so much before the age of 28 is remarkable.

He continues to develop, too. Several times in his career, he has been confronted by obstacles that could have derailed his progress but, on each occasion, he has found a way to overcome them. There were his problems outside off stump; his struggle to show his worth as a limited-overs batsman and, for a while, doubts over his ability to deal with spin. Yet through hard work, determination and a deep faith in his own ability, he has developed a method that allowed him to succeed.

His improvement against spin is enormous. Here he showed a new willingness to come down the wicket - once striking Ojha for a sweetly-timed six - and employed the sweep noticeably more often than he has in the past.

Nick Compton impressed, too. The scores do not yet show it but Compton has made an assured start to his Test career. Asked not just to open the batting - he has been batting at No. 3 in domestic cricket for the last few seasons - but to open in alien conditions and against a talented spin attack, he has demonstrated an admirably unflustered temperament. He is not blessed with the scoring options of one or two of his colleagues but that need not overly concern him. What England require from him is a solid foundation and, to date, he has delivered.

Jonathan Trott experienced a less happy day. Having reflected on his second innings dismissal at Ahmedabad, drawn forward and beaten by a beauty that turned and took the edge of his bat, he reasoned that playing back may offer a greater chance of dealing with the spin. But it was not to be and his dismissal, caught on the crease playing slightly across the line, was ugly. By Trott's standards his run of form is poor - he has passed 50 only twice since the start of the South Africa series and has suffered two ducks and two other scores below 20 in his last five Test innings - but he has surely earned the right to a little patience.

England still face a considerable challenge. They trail by149 and, of the remaining batsmen, Jonny Bairstow and Samit Patel are unproven in these conditions and the tail, in the absence of Tim Bresnan, is a little longer. Batting fourth could prove especially demanding, so a first innings lead is required if England are not to leave themselves too much to do.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on November 25, 2012, 18:18 GMT

    @ Lmaotsetung on (November 25 2012, 11:48 AM GMT) Know what you're saying. I don't know what went on behind closed doors etc so can't comment on how KP was treated etc but my inclination is that he's lucky to be back on board. However , if he's learnt his lessons for whatever he's supposed to have done and he's getting on well with his teammates then I'm very happy with that. What Tevez did at Man City was far worse and he seems to have been forgiven and now seems happy and playing good football again

  • John on November 25, 2012, 11:48 GMT

    I know that after today's knock all the KP fanboys will out in full force. As an ardent England fan, I am one who still believe KP should not have been back. No professional sportsman should need any type of motivation to bring his best to the field and KP squarely falls in that category. Now that Strauss is retired the race to most test century by an English batsman is down to 2 men...Cook and KP...the latter knows what's at stake and so we see KP the genius today. How can someone who batted so brilliantly today look so out of touch a week ago on a pitch that was 10x easier to bat on? Give me 11 Alastair Cook where I know what I'll get instead of the Jeckyl and Hide that is Kevin Pietersen.

  • Naveen on November 25, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    Kevin Pietersen is simply the greatest batsman of his era. He has played the best attacks in all kind of tricky pitches and scored runs big. And scored he has by dominating attacks which is the hallmark of great players. Take a bow KP!!!

  • John on November 25, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    re the team unity - think it was in the 1st match and I'm not sure if I was seeing things - but it looked the case that when Swann took one of the wickets KP was the 1st over to congratulate him

  • Dummy4 on November 25, 2012, 6:26 GMT

    Well done KP. You have to be consistent throughout rest of the tour.

  • John on November 25, 2012, 1:08 GMT

    As much as he could go on to win the series for India, I really hope that Pujara has not sustained a serious injury in the field that would keep him out of this game or the rest of the series. Victory is victory but it would feel a bit hollow if India lost their best-performing batsman at this point. While I don't wish injury on anyone, it's good to see Cook not taking a backward step. There has always been a lot of talk about his limitations but, after finding a way to prosper playing within those limitations, he is now finding ways to overcome the limitations altogether, adding more and more strings to his bow and becoming a more and more complete batsman. At this rate, he really could finish his career as one of the greats. He probably will never be the most entertaining batsman to watch but he's been England's best-performing batsman for a while now and captaincy seems to agree with him too, so here's hoping his rise and rise continues.

  • Alex on November 25, 2012, 0:28 GMT

    Where was yuvi when kP came first? Dhoni captaincy is flawed. People sometime credit his "LUCK" too much?. Bhajji is useless in spinning pitch. He do not even spin the ball now...he is spinner with with no spin.

  • Matthew on November 25, 2012, 0:12 GMT

    Conditions still very much in India's favour. One wicket brings a couple on these sort of pitches, especially one so poor against spin. I think the indian supporters are getting a bit too pessimistic. They're at home and have no doubt been put under pressure before at home, but history shows they have still been able to draw or win. Have faith. Let us english go over the top with worrying and pessimism.

  • Dummy4 on November 24, 2012, 23:04 GMT

    Patel or Broad? Well, Patel has taken a wicket while conceding 3.07 run per over while bowling five more. At least Patel has offered Cook some measure of control. Apart from headaches, it's unclear what, if anything, Broad has given his captain. As an example, Patel conceded six from four in India's first innings while Broad gave away 60 from twelve. It's just not good enough from someone named vice captain. If at the end of this test this lamentable state of affairs persist, Broad should be axed and sent home to earn his selection by displays of continued excellence on the county circuit.

  • ian on November 24, 2012, 22:13 GMT

    I believe that the England dressing room is a better place than it has been for some time. Swann has publicly expressed his appreciation of KP's skills & application today - and from that we can take it that the healing process is well underway (I see Swann as a type of shop-steward for some reason). In retrospect, the Ahmadabad defeat may turn out to be the proverbial blessing in disguise: the insanity of going into a Test in India with only one spinner; the run-before-walking of KP's inns; the later examples of Cook & Prior - mentors to the team overall - all of this has not been lost, judging from the performances in Mumbai to date. Now, it's a case of steady as she goes. Things are not yet as good as they could be, but if a side has six of eleven players performing, they will normally carry the day for their side. So far, that number is four. Who else is going to turn up at this rehab. party? I want to know! That's why I'm up at four a.m.!

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