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December 5, 2010
England's hopes of batting Australia to a standstill in the second Test were thwarted by an untimely downpour that brought an early end to the third day's play, but Kevin Pietersen, who finished the day unbeaten on 213, is adamant that Australia will not escape defeat on a pitch that is starting to show signs of breaking up.
By the close, England lead by a formidable 306 runs with six wickets still intact, having reached 4 for 551, the same runs total - coincidentally - at which they declared so fatefully on this ground four years ago. While Pietersen said that he had no idea about Andrew Strauss's intentions, he believed he had seen enough turn from the part-time offspinner Marcus North to believe that Graeme Swann will have a major say in the destiny of this match.
"I really do believe we are in a really strong position in this game," said Pietersen. "Obviously the rain didn't help us with the plans we were going to go out and produce, but I think rain or no rain, there's a really good chance that we can win this Test match, with the amount that North spun the ball out of the rough today and we have the best spinner in the world in our team."
Pietersen's double-century was the second of his career and his first three-figure score since March 2009, and while he was delighted to finally end his barren sequence, he took greater delight in being part of an England dressing room that has now racked up a combined score of 1068 for 5 in its last two innings.
"It's brilliant, isn't it?" he said. "It's not a surprise at all, because we all believe in each other in the dressing-room, we know what each other are capable of and when everybody's on fire and in form then these scores are possible. To get the team into a position like this, with Cooky and Trotty doing the hard yards to get the wear into their bowlers again, and for a couple of us to go and enjoy ourselves, was great.
"We don't settle for complacency, we love it when guys do well, we take our opportunities and we do whatever we can to be the best players we can possibly be, but we also remember that the next day is a new day," he added. "The realism to know that each day is different and there's no way we'll settle for complacency in our dressing-room breeds a hungry team and a team dedicated to winning and a team that's dedicated to doing well."
The fact that Pietersen's return to form came against Australia was typical of the narrative of his career. "I wouldn't say it's the Ashes in particular but I do love the big occasion," he admitted. "I do love challenging myself against the best players in the world. When it gets tough I love that - and it's been pretty tough over the last 18 months - but this is a challenge I've really looked forward to.
"It's not a target, but the Ashes is something where you get up in the morning as an English cricketer and think 'this is what it's made of'. We were quietly confident that we could come out here and do a really good job, or a lot better than last time, and that gets your juices flowing. I remember leaving Heathrow Airport thinking this will be amazing, and if that can't get you going, nothing will get you going."
Shane Watson, meanwhile, said that Australia were already bracing themselves for a long hard battle for a draw, and would deal with whatever scenario arose in the morning. "If we're bowling, trying to get wickets would be nice, more than four," he said. "If we're batting we've got to keep it as simple as possible. We've got to be able to get through the first session, first hour and just keep batting for as long as we possibly can. In the end I think it's as simple as that and that is our biggest challenge.''
Pietersen refused to get carried away with the prospect of victory, or the dominance that England had so far exerted in the match. "The Ashes is only nil-nil, it might still be nil-nil come Tuesday so there are no role reversals," he said. "We're just doing whatever we can to win and the Australians are doing the same."
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