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Pietersen Zone

Head-to-head with Murali

No 6 in our series of Kevin Pietersen's top ten innings

Lawrence Booth
Lawrence Booth
Kevin Pietersen plays an extraordinary reverse-sweep off Muttiah Muralitharan for six, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, May 26, 2006

Playing an extraordinary reverse-sweep off Muttiah Muralitharan for six  •  Getty Images

This was the innings that alerted the world to the switch-hit. But Pietersen's 142 was far more than a gimmick. It was essentially the difference between the two sides in a game England won by six wickets, a margin that flattered the Sri Lankans after they were left to defend only 78 in the fourth innings.
Pietersen arrived at the crease on the back of a superb 158 in the first Test at Lord's and proceeded to score one more run than the entire Sri Lankan line-up managed in their first innings in total. Not only that, but the next-best score in both team's first innings were the 30s made by Chaminda Vaas and Andrew Strauss. It was as if Pietersen was batting in a different game. Later, it would briefly seem as if he was playing a different sport.
Unusually a Pietersen special, he got off to a flyer, thanks to couple of edges early on off Lasith Malinga and a six over long-off from only the third ball he faced from Muttiah Muralitharan. By the time he had taken two more boundaries off Malinga's next over, Pietersen had raced to 24 off 12 balls. The stage was set.
His half-century arrived off his 53rd delivery with a sweep for four off Murali, and one by one the bowlers were picked off. Farveez Maharoof came under the cosh, and he was swiftly followed by Nuwan Kulasekera, whom Pietersen eased through midwicket to move to his fourth Test hundred from only 114 balls.
But the fun was only beginning. Murali disappeared for three consecutive fours, before the trademark moment: a switch of the hands, a whirr of the blade and six runs over what had seconds before been extra cover. Murali could not believe what he had just seen, and although he trapped Pietersen leg-before two balls later as he missed a more conventional sweep, the game had witnessed its seminal moment.
In all, Pietersen faced 157 balls and hit 20 fours and three sixes. Since Sri Lanka's batsmen had managed 16 fours between them in their first innings - a figure matched by Pietersen's England colleagues - the measure of his domination was statistical too. And for artistic impression there was only one winner.

Lawrence Booth is a cricket correspondent at the Guardian. He writes the acclaimed weekly cricket email The Spin for