Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 1st day

Pietersen outwits the master

Gone were the sociable smiles, friendly pats on the back and appreciative nods of each other's vast abilities. Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne were friends-turned-foes at Adelaide today and, most intriguingly of all as far as this series is concerned, Wa

Will Luke

December 1, 2006

Text size: A | A

Power and patience © Getty Images

Gone were the sociable smiles, friendly pats on the back and appreciative nods of each other's vast abilities. Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne were friends-turned-foes at Adelaide today and, most intriguingly of all as far as this series is concerned, Warne is on the back foot.

The duel began at Brisbane. Fielding a fiercely struck ball, Warne threw it impetuously back to Adam Gilchrist, narrowly avoiding Pietersen's head. He swayed to his left, flicking up the bat and top-edged the ball past Gilchrist. Brows furrowed, eyes narrowed, pleasantries were exchanged and the love affair was over. The crowd's hard-earned dollars hadn't been wasted, in spite of Australia's dominance.

Pietersen thrives on the close-combat skirmishes which come from facing a spinner, but also in the personal challenge of beating the bowler - literally, if possible. That Warne is a close friend hasn't doused the fire, rather fuelled it with dynamite. The Australians have said the best way to subdue Brian Lara is to ignore him, not to antagonise or sledge him and the same might be said of Pietersen in future years. Or even at the end of this series if he continues to dominate Warne in the same emphatic manner as he did today.

True, the pitch was flat and Australia seemed to sit back for much of the day, but Pietersen took to Warne like a shark scenting blood. Mischievous half-steps down the pitch before each delivery upset Warne's length, allowing Pietersen to rock back and cut him safely, powerfully through the covers. The master of line and length, the deliverer of the "ball on a string" - Warne was being toyed like a rag-doll by a young English batsman. He was even forced to bowl around the wicket into the rough - which even Ashley Giles doesn't do all that often any more.

In fact it was at this point that, in series past, Warne would have outwitted England. Bowling a foot outside Pietersen's leg stump, he was enticing him to sweep, or drive across the line, or succumb to frustration. Yet Pietersen wouldn't be tempted and a firm, stubborn left pad was thrust out to block ball after ball. Only when Warne dropped short, as he did several times, did he make him pay; crucially, Pietersen never missed out, slamming each of Warne's long-hops ferociously hard to the extra-cover boundary. Warne did not know what to do or where to bowl. Gilchrist's "ooh nice, Shane" phrases were barely audible.

Pietersen did the same to Muttiah Muralitharan in the summer, famously reverse-sweeping him for six. Then, as now, people wondered if there had ever been a better English player of spin. Now, though, Pietersen has shown an even more exciting aspect to his development: the mental wherewithal to outwit even the very best. Warne could yet have the final say over Pietersen in this match, but today he was outfoxed by his closest mate. So much for chumminess marring a contest.

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Will Luke

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Email Feedback Print
Will LukeClose
Will Luke Assistant editor Will opted against a lifetime of head-bangingly dull administration in the NHS, where he had served for two years. In 2005 came a break at Cricinfo where he slotted right in as a ferociously enthusiastic tea drinker and maker, with a penchant for using "frankly" and "marvellous". He also runs The Corridor, a cricket blog where he can be found ranting and raving about all things - some even involving the sport. He is a great-great nephew of Sir Jack Newman, the former Wellingtonian bowler who took two wickets at 127 apiece for New Zealand.
Related Links
Players/Officials: Kevin Pietersen | Shane Warne
Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
Teams: Australia | England

    The choking problem

Martin Crowe: If they are to live up to their potential in next year's World Cup at home, New Zealand need to look within

    Impressing Viv and Greg

Five Firsts: Former Pakistan batsman Haroon Rasheed on the compliments he received, and his admiration for Gavaskar

    Still plenty of ifs for Butt

Rob Steen: Salman Butt insists players should refrain from "wrongdoing" but that shouldn't gain him back the trust of those he duped

Outside the Grace Gate

Shot Selection: You think MCC members have it easy when it comes to watching a Test at Lord's? Think again

A measure for batting and bowling effectiveness in T20

Kartikeya Date: Strike rates and economy rates do not quite tell the whole story. Here's a new standard

News | Features Last 7 days

UAE all set to host lavish welcoming party

The controversy surrounding the IPL has done little to deter fans in UAE from flocking the stadiums, as they gear up to watch the Indian stars in action for the first time since 2006

Attention on Yuvraj, Gambhir in IPL 2014

ESPNcricinfo picks five players for whom this IPL is of bigger significance

India: cricket's Brazil

It's difficult to beat a huge talent base exposed to good facilities, and possessed of a long history of competing as a nation

Fifty for the pantheon

What if you had to narrow all of cricket greatness down to 50 names?

'I love to take batsmen on'

Wahab Riaz, the Pakistan left-arm quick, on the pain of missing out on a ten-for, and his love for numbers and batting

News | Features Last 7 days