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By demonstrating talents that none of his colleagues posses, Kevin Pietersen proved why his return to the England team was necessary
George Dobell in Mumbai
November 24, 2012
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
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