The match between England and Sri Lanka at Cardiff is the first of a series of three. It is scheduled for five days. The fourth day’s play has just finished, but with a gloomy forecast for tomorrow it looks as if at least half of that time will have been lost to the unsettled weather, which has also continually altered the dynamics of the surface and the atmosphere on and through which the game is played.
Rain on days three and four has prevented the wicket from drying out and producing the interesting and result-inducing surface which might have been possible, depriving one of the best spinners in the world, Swann, and one who may be the most radical in method, Mendes, of fascinating conditions in which to weave their magic.
Nor has the interest in this match been generated by the batting of the three centurions one of whom, Trott, compiled a double century.
No, the only talking point surrounds one man who scored just three runs in an innings that lasted but a few minutes.
After waiting as ‘next man in’ for 251 runs and about 24 hours, Kevin Pietersen walked to the wicket to be confronted by his Nemesis, a the left arm spinner in the person of Rangana Herath, who until Pietersen’s arrival had been bowling the defensive line from over the wicket, but who immediately changed to the attacking line bowled from around the wicket.
It is likely that Fate shielded Pietersen from Nemesis until his 34th Test when Daniel Vettori, first exposed Pietersen’s Achilles Heel. Since then he has been out to this type of bowler over twenty times in sixty innings.
Pietersen came to the fore as a highly unorthodox batsman. Open-stanced and therefore open hipped, wide gaited, he used an exaggerated ‘trigger’ which took him well across to the off and, with the huge reach that his height and gait gave him, he commanded the bowling from outside the line of the off-stump where he could either smoother the ball defensively, ‘slap’ it through the covers if wide enough or smack it through the on-side, standing up-right on a straight front leg with the back leg off the ground to provide balance through the cantilever rather than through the orthodox manner of grounding it.
With this technique and his considerable self-confidence he tamed the mighty Warne in one of the great cricketing and Ashes winning innings at the Oval in 2005.
There is an established caution against playing ‘against’ the spin and therefore the advice to the right hander is to manage the ball ‘in’ to ‘out’ through the off side.
Pietersen could defy this advice because of his huge height – he is 6 foot 4 inches – and the forward reach he can achieve quickly from his wide gait. This enables him to strike the turning ball early on the half volley or the full. To cope, the bowler is persuaded to shorten his length giving Pietersen the scope to play back and strike the ball at its zenith.
To watch Daniel Vettori bowl may be to take a journey back a hundred years to glimpse Charlie Blythe. Once Vettori had done the psychological damage that Warne could not achieve, others less gifted forced their way through Pietersen’s brittle confidence. See ball, hit ball became see ball … turmoil.
Turning to Dravid, Pietersen was advised to adopt the ‘in’ to ‘out’ approach of an orthodox batsman. The ‘trigger’ was changed as well as the tactics. Yesterday the shrewd Vaughan advised a straightening of the hip alignment in tribute to the classical approach to the sideways game. It would work, but at a price.
On the other hand, Third Man has consistently urged this most treasured of individuals to rediscover his revolutionary talent of the romantic.
The bowler, knowing that his best ball can disappear through or over cow corner, is pressured into widening his line of attack, where Pietersen’s ‘slap’ will propel the ball through the covers, or into shortening his length so that Pietersen can press back onto the back foot where the horizontal bat tears the ball from its airy perch.
Yesterday on a pitch which was producing the odd shooter he just went back (towards the wicket and towards leg) and looked like a beginner. Genius and ineptitude sleep side by side in this man.
Meanwhile at World’s End the Squire has caught the coach into Town. A meeting at the Star and Garter has been called. “That cove Pietersen! Won’t sleep in me own bed tonight, Third Man.”
Pietersen was ajudged LBW after being given not out on field by an umpire who thought that the ball had been struck by the bat.
A combination of heat seeking technology and a replay from square of the wicket on the off side detected that the ball had first glanced the batsman’s pad before being struck by the bat.
He was given out under the terms of Law 36(1), Out LBW which sets out the conditions for a batsmen to be given out leg before wicket including (c) the ball not having previously touched his bat, the striker intercepts the ball, either full pitch or after pitching, with any part of his person, and clarified by Law 36 (2) In assessing points (c), (d) and (e) in 1 above, only the first interception is to be considered.
But ‘interception’ denotes ‘the obstruction of someone or something so as to prevent them from continuing to a destination’.
The glance off the pad in this case did not or would not have prevented the ball from hitting the stumps – the destination. It was minimal and the ball would have continued on to hit the stumps had the bat not literally intercepted it.
Plenty to consider in Pall Mall tonight.