Kevin Pietersen's ongoing struggle for form remains England's single biggest concern following a thumping 354-run victory over Pakistan at Trent Bridge. The match was wrapped up with five sessions to spare as James Anderson dismissed the visitors for 80 in their second innings, but having contributed scores of 9 and 22 to the contest, Pietersen has now gone 22 innings without a Test century, with the most recent of his 16 hundreds coming against West Indies at Trinidad in March 2009.
Pietersen has not been entirely devoid of form in that time. He made 99 against Bangladesh at Chittagong in March before claiming the Man of the Series award for his flamboyant performances in England's triumphant World Twenty20 campaign. But the consistent dominance that he showed against all opponents up to and including the time of his removal as England captain in early 2009 has deserted him, and shows no sign of returning in the immediate future.
England's captain, Andrew Strauss, repeated a familiar team refrain when he declared that Pietersen's determination to succeed was as absolute as ever, and while there was little to show for his contribution in the scorebook, Strauss singled out his second-innings effort of 22 as a vital factor in enabling England to pull away from Pakistan in the latter stages of the third day. Having come to the crease early following the loss of both openers, Pietersen added 48 for the third wicket with Jonathan Trott, before Kamran Akmal clung onto an outstanding one-handed catch to dismiss him via an inside-edge.
"KP is fine," Strauss said. "He wasn't able to make a telling contribution in this game, although he batted better in the second innings and made a very important contribution because both him and Trott had to dig deep. The contributions maybe don't look all that good in terms of the figures they finished up the game with, but the first 30 overs of every innings was very tough work for batting, and there were more contributions than just the guys who got the big runs."
All the same, Pietersen has had a variety of distractions in recent weeks - both on the home front, where he recently became a father for the first time, and perhaps more significantly, down at his county Hampshire, where he is now persona non grata after declaring his intention to seek a new base closer to his London home. As a consequence of that, he was recently snubbed for a CB40 fixture against Kent, after the ECB requested that he play to gain match practice ahead of the Test.
Strauss, however, was confident that that row had not impacted significantly on his cricket. "KP has always been very clear in his mind what he needs to do practice-wise, and that's not changed on the back of him not getting a county game with Hampshire," he said. "He's done a lot of work with Gooch, and the most important thing is he feels well prepared. Not playing in that game hasn't made him feel less prepared.
"We're all hopeful he does find a club for next season, because it's important for there to be that relationship between the counties and the England team, and that it's a healthy relationship. On the one hand, England players can go there to get form, on the other, those England players can pass on their experience to the younger guys in the county dressing room. That's how it works."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.