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Kevin Pietersen has been England's best batsman in the last 30 years, and one of their biggest matchwinners ever
November 20, 2013
Kevin Pietersen the person tends to divide opinions, but there's no doubting the class of Kevin Pietersen the batsman. On Thursday he'll become the 10th England player to appear in 100 Test matches, but in terms of achievements he has already surpassed many of them. Only four England batsmen have scored more Test runs than him, and only one - Alastair Cook - has more Test hundreds.
More than just the sheer number of runs, though, it's the ability to influence the results of matches that has been the stand-out aspect of Pietersen's Test career so far. Mark Nicholas had mentioned in his article that Pietersen "is close to being regarded as a truly great cricketer, England's first since Ian Botham". A batting average of 48.38 doesn't necessarily bear that out, especially in this era of so many batsmen breaching 50, but here's a stat which reflects Pietersen's ability to turn games: he has won ten Man-of-the-Match awards in his Test career, which is the second-highest among all England players; only Botham, with 12, has won more.
The first of those awards came in his very first series, and in his fifth Test, against Australia at The Oval, when his 158 in the second innings helped England save the game and clinch the Ashes. In the next home season, he won his second for scoring 142 at Edgbaston against Sri Lanka; by the end of the 2007 home season, he had four awards in 30 Tests, scored ten hundreds, and averaged almost 53.
It was an outstanding start to his Test career, but the next two-and-a-half years weren't as prolific, as his average dipped to 42.80 in his next 28 matches. Of the nine series he played during that period, three times his average slipped below 30, two of those being on tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa.
The next 20 Tests were outstanding again, and included the 2010-11 Ashes - when he averaged 60 from five Tests - and the four-Test home series against India, when he scored 533 from six innings. However, since the beginning of 2012 the average has dipped again, to 41.24 from 21 matches. The highs have been there during this period as well, including three stunning innings in Colombo, Leeds, and Mumbai, but there have been lows too, including the series against Pakistan in the UAE, when he aggregated 67 in six innings.
|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||21||1526||41.24||60.79||4/ 8|
Problems in Asia, and v left-arm spinners
While he has played some memorable and matchwinning knocks abroad, overall Pietersen has been more consistent in England, averaging almost 53 at home compared to 43.51 in overseas Tests (including those at neutral venues). Specifically, he has had his problems in Asia, averaging less than 40 in four out of eight series. However, even in conditions he hasn't been comfortable with, Pietersen has played a couple of matchwinning innings on the last two tours, in Colombo and Mumbai.
|Tests||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
The Asian problem has something to do with left-arm spin, but, more surprisingly, Pietersen doesn't have a great average against right-arm pace either in Asia, scoring only 34.20 runs per dismissal. Overall, his average against right-arm fast is 50.24. Against left-arm spin, he has less-than-impressive numbers all around the world.
The individual bowlers who've dismissed him most often, though, aren't left-arm spinners. Peter Siddle has got him out seven times (average 21 runs per dismissal), while Brett Lee and Muttiah Muralitharan have dismissed him six times each (at averages of 38.16 and 28). Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne dismissed him five times each, but their averages differed hugely: McGrath conceded only 27 per dismissal, but Pietersen won many of his battles against Warne, averaging 61.60 against him. The bowler who has troubled him more than any other, though, is Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal: his five dismissals have cost him only 12.80 runs each.
|Bowler type||Dismissals||Average||Runs/over||Dismissals||Average||Runs/ over|
Among England's finest, at No. 4 and overall
Pre-1970, England had several batsmen who ended their careers with 50-plus averages - Herbert Sutcliffe, Ken Barrington, Wally Hammond, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton and Denis Compton all belonged in that club - but since then the list has dwindled. Among all the England batsmen who've scored at least 1000 runs since the beginning of 1970, only one batsman has a 50-plus average during this period: Geoff Boycott averaged 50.50 in the 67 Tests he played since 1970, though his overall career average was 47.72.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, England played against West Indies far too often for any of their batsmen to average in the vicinity of 50, but even in the 2000s none of their batsmen breached that mark. Pietersen's average of 48.38 is the highest among England batsmen who've played in the last 30 years, and the third-best since 1970.
|Geoff Boycott||67||5505||50.50||16/ 29|
|Dennis Amiss||45||3487||49.11||11/ 11|
|Kevin Pietersen||99||7887||48.38||23/ 33|
|Alastair Cook||97||7801||47.85||25/ 32|
|Jonathan Trott||48||3744||47.39||9/ 18|
|Ian Bell||93||6487||46.66||20/ 37|
|Graham Thorpe||100||6744||44.66||16/ 39|
|David Gower||117||8231||44.25||18/ 39|
|Marcus Trescothick||76||5825||43.79||14/ 29|
|Robin Smith||62||4236||43.67||9/ 28|
|Graham Gooch||118||8900||42.58||20/ 46|
At No. 4, Pietersen is already England's leading run-scorer by a distance, already having scored 1965 runs more than Compton, though Compton had a better average. In the all-time list for all teams, Pietersen is in seventh place, after Tendulkar, Kallis, Jayawardene, Lara, Miandad and Mark Waugh.
|Kevin Pietersen||130||6199||49.59||19/ 25|
|Denis Compton||86||4234||53.39||13/ 20|
|David Gower||91||3223||38.36||3/ 20|
|Wally Hammond||66||2997||50.79||7/ 15|
|Nasser Hussain||82||2877||37.36||8/ 17|
|Graham Thorpe||73||2712||41.72||4/ 18|
|Peter May||49||2383||58.12||7/ 12|
|Ken Barrington||44||2367||59.17||7/ 12|
|Allan Lamb||67||2340||38.36||8/ 7|
|Robin Smith||49||1834||39.86||5/ 10|
Pietersen at No. 4 by point-of-entry scores
The table below lists Pietersen's batting stats at No. 4 sorted by the team totals at which he has come in to bat. When he has come in early - with the score reading less than 25 - Pietersen's average has dropped to 32, which is well below his career average. He has scored a couple of centuries in 20 innings - 144 against India in Mohali coming in at 1 for 2, and 129 against New Zealand in Napier coming in at 4 for 2 (which soon became 36 for 4) - but 12 times in 20 innings, he has been dismissed for less than 15, which brings his overall average down to 32.
The average increases to 41.03 when he comes in with the total between 25 and 49, but he has been at his most productive at No. 4 when he has come in to bat with the team total between 50 and 99. In 37 such innings he has scored ten centuries, and averages nearly 65. Two of his double-centuries were scored in this point-of-entry range, as was his matchwinning 186 in Mumbai last year (when he came in at 68 for 2). When he's come in after 100, his average has dropped, though it's still an impressive 50.66.
|Less than 25||20||641||32.05||2/ 3|
|25 to 49||29||1149||41.03||3/ 6|
|50 to 99||37||2332||64.78||10/ 5|
|100 to 149||22||884||44.20||1/ 6|
|150 or more||22||1193||56.81||3/ 5|
Comparing with the best of his time
Pietersen is the fastest to 4000, 5000, and 7000 Test runs in terms of days, but that's also partially because of the amount of Test cricket England tend to play. Since Pietersen's Test debut, in July 2005, England have played 106 Tests, the most by any team. Australia are next with 94, India 89, South Africa 76 while Pakistan have managed only 65 Tests. (Click here for the full list.) This unequal distribution has helped Pietersen and the other England batsman, but his overall average of 48.38 isn't as good as some of the others.
This is clearly an era in which 50-plus averages are nowhere near as exclusive as they used to be: since July 2005 (when Pietersen made his debut), nine batsmen have scored 4000-plus runs at 50-plus averages, while two others have marginally higher averages than Pietersen. It's true that Pietersen has played more than half his Tests in England, where run-scoring has been relatively difficult during this period: the average runs per wicket here since his debut is 31.30, compared to 35.35 in the same period in India, and 33.09 in Sri Lanka. However, Pietersen has had more problems scoring runs consistently in Asia.
|Batsman||Tests||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s||Strike rate|
|Kumar Sangakkara||70||6986||63.50||26/ 24||53.84|
|Shivnarine Chanderpaul||63||4931||57.33||14/ 26||43.00|
|Younis Khan||49||4349||56.48||13/ 16||51.92|
|Hashim Amla||68||5851||54.68||20/ 27||52.70|
|Jacques Kallis||71||5803||53.73||22/ 21||50.69|
|Michael Clarke||85||6987||53.33||22/ 25||55.94|
|Michael Hussey||79||6235||51.52||19/ 29||50.13|
|AB de Villiers||76||5670||51.08||14/ 29||54.35|
|Mahela Jayawardene||70||5869||50.59||18/ 23||51.51|
|VS Laxman||70||4820||48.68||10/ 34||49.02|
|Sachin Tendulkar||77||5787||48.63||17/ 27||53.84|
|Kevin Pietersen||99||7887||48.38||23/ 33||62.27|
Though Pietersen isn't among the top ten in terms of averages, he is clearly among the most impactful players during this period. Since his Test debut, only Kumar Sangakkara has more Man-of-the-Match awards (11) than Pietersen's 10.
Already, Pietersen is the fifth-highest run-scorer in Tests for England, 1013 behind the leader, Graham Gooch. If he stays focussed and hungry for Test cricket, he should cruise past that landmark and become the first England player to score 9000 runs. (It's a tad surprising that of the 12 batsmen currently in the 9000-run club, none are from England.) However, more than the sheer number of runs, it's his ability to turn games that will probably remain Pietersen's biggest selling point.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on TwitterFeeds: S Rajesh
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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