Tag Archives: Kevin Pietersen

Cricketing Cape Crusader Saves Gotham City Authorities – England v Sri Lanka Test 3 Days 3 and 3a

In bright sunshine, at the best time of the day to play cricket, the players and officials left the field on the third day of the third Test between England and Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl after only 51 overs of play had been possible during a frustrating day of intervals for rain in which the covers had been on and off more times than a Henry Blofeld could count and the crowd had come as close to revolution as any English crowd could.

At one point just 28 balls were bowled in two sessions over three hours.

Had this been Greece, the Authorities would have been swept from power at about 4.10 in the afternoon when, with the sun cracking the new paving around the Rose Bowl, and the wicket bare of covers and dry as a bone, those self same officials announced that the players would take tea.

During this period of Establishment madness when an official was overheard to say, “let them eat cake”, a spectator dressed as Batman ran onto the pitch, easily evading an abject steward, before surrendering with typical English aplomb to the powers that be and his fate of expulsion from Gotham City the ground and a thousand pound fine. 

Although, the Cape Crusader was led out to the sound of supportive boos and gestures of social solidarity, the system had won.

And the main reason why cricketing fatigue on a par with Greek austerity fatigue had not consumed those in this heated crucible of rebellion? Why, none other than that other Dark Knight of the Cape, the World’s Greatest Detective Batsman was not out 27 and threatening to play one of his special innings.

Kevin Pietersen had come to the wicket in the eighth over of England’s innings and proceeded to drive and pull his way to 22 in as much time as it takes the Dark Knight Detective to fire up the Batmobile.

At the start of play at 10.45, England had taken just 18 balls to remove the last Lankan to bring their total score to 184.  Welegedara and Lakmal had then removed Strauss and Trott respectively to leave England balanced precariously at the top of a high building on 14 for 2. 

Batman immediately drilled Lakmal like a rocket powered grappling iron straight for four.  In that instance the hero of many an adventure simultaneously calmed and exhilarated the populace, and saved the city authorities from the consequences of their incompetent handling of the delays.

The Dark Knight went on to power with awesome ease a boundary enrobed 85 before falling to his first piece of daredevilry of the day, edging to the keeper just nine balls from the scheduled close of play at 7.30pm.

But let us examine the counterfactual that might easily have occurred had that first straight drive gone the way of his last.

Throughout the day the radar monitor showed heavy rain showers approaching in their legion from the south west, like the serial threats of Catwoman, Penguin, the Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy.  Between these downpours, the sun would shine brightly like periods of peace following the defeat of some violent menace.

It was a nightmare for the groundstaff who valiantly manhandled the covers protecting the playing surface.  It was a nightmare for the officials gauging when it was ‘safe’ to allow play to resume.  It was a nightmare for this first Saturday crowd at this newest of Test venues who wanted action and who, beneath a blazing su,n saw only tarpaulins and a field baren of action.  For them it was bewildering and absurd, irksome and aggravating.

When, after a long period of inaction with the sun in full force and the wicket calling to be played on, it was announced that tea would be taken, a man dressed as Batman walked in a dignified manner onto the field and sat down.  Three or four stewards ran towards him and attempted to arrest him. 

With that, the Caped Crusader was joined by Robin.  More stewards appeared and it looked for all the world as if these two would soon be removed by the Authorities.

But then two Mexicans, then seven hippies, then a dozen readers of this blog and dressed in sou’westers, followed by Darth Vader, temporarily on the side of good, six Dickie Birds, three bears, ten more Mexicans, the cast of Star Wars and all the Telly Tubbies made their way onto the field and sat down.

There were now too many for the stewards to contemplate removing, but still they came as citizens of cricket to remonstrate; now it was fathers bringing their sons, and women with scorebooks and whole families and friends and people sitting there talking to each other who had never met but sensed that, by being together, they could not be removed, that in their silent protest they for once really mattered and what they were doing was important.

Play was abandoned for the day at 5.30.  The sun shone.  A deputation representing the newly founded Justice Society of Cricket Spectators, led by a Telly Tubby, a Mexican and a Hippie, were negotiating with the ICC.

The talks would be long and arduous but they would bring change.

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Fine Dining in North London

Those who handed over their hard earned cash at Lord’s yesterday and those who had the faith to pay weeks ahead with a credit card were rewarded with a densely packed hamper of ‘goodies’ to match the finest on sale at the Nursery End from that ‘Greedy Italian’ Antonio Carluccio .

To Dilshan and Law the wicket may have looked like a green salad, but Hammond would have laughed at such a menu description

This was a typical Lord’s wicket which, with much fine weather forecast, had been left cooking under the covers for slightly longer than would otherwise have been the case and therefore required respect in the morning and gluttony thereafter.

The Sri Lankans still queasy after their late meal at Cardiff and in a gesture that looked insipid declined the first course. 

Strauss and Trott spurned the necessary digestif and to their cost played across straight deliveries.  An impatient Pietersen reached for the h’orderves without properly preparing the palette and was caught in the gully.  He has become ‘the hungry man’ of cricket.

England were 22 for 3 and Dilshan and Law’s reading of the menu now looked expertly seasoned.

Cook, as might be expected, understood the nature of the fare on offer and chewed on each mouthful with the greatest care in pursuit of his third successive century, while across the table, Bell, who is finally enjoying his deserved three star rating, took the score to 130 before edging to slip.

At which point the bon viveur Morgan took his place at the table and sumptuously feasted on the spin of Herath and Dilshan, lifting them deliciously for straight sixes towards the pavilion, but judiciously picking selectively at the pace on offer.

The fifth wicket fell at 201 when Cook on 96, having devoured a couple of scrumptiously short deliveries from Fernando, went for one too many and, misjudging the length, could only pull the ball skyward into a waiter’s safe hands.

Matt Prior, who now came to the table, resembles a travelling salesman enjoying the table d’hote at The Commercial, the juices from his lamb cutlets running down his chin as he describes the charms of a young lady in lingerie or the trick he has played on the unpalatable Head of Buying. 

Prior and Morgan now guzzled at five an over to take England to 295 for 5 with the kitchen hard pressed to keep pace with their craving for more.

It is a truism, though not less true for that, to say that Morgan does not play cricket like an Englishman.  He is a Dubliner who consumes Guinness and pie, tells tales and is the greatest of companions.  An O’Toole of a cricketer.* So, with the wicket now flattening and the sun now burning and the crowd now merry and the bowlers now drained, a banquet was ordered in high anticipation and much salivation.

Cricket, however, has one restorative for tired staff: a refreshing new ball, and with this one, deliciously cool in his hand Lakmal produced the perfect delivery to trap the ravenous Irishman LBW for 79 gorgeous runs.  

A rather gaunt Broad, starved of opportunity since his first-baller in Siddle’s hat trick an age ago, now joined Prior who continued to wolf down what was served up to him and to encourage his new companion to put away a rarebit with relish until the restaurant closed leaving England on 342 for 6 and Prior and Broad wanting more.

* Third Man was tempted to liken Morgan to Samuel Beckett, another lefty, but his batting average of 8.75 in Gordon and Hawke’s Cricket Form at a Glance made it an unjustifiable comparison.

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Intercepting Mr Pietersen

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.

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Time for Cricket

A few posts ago Third Man expatiated on Cricket as a Battle to Control Time. There he sought to show that the cricketer who can slow his own experience of time and speed up that of his opponent gains the advantage and increases his chances of dominating the present.

Time is crucial in another way to cricketing performance. Effective cricketers concentrate their attention on ‘now’ or locate their consciousness two fifths of a second in the future, if you believe Third Man’s theory that batsmen and fielders often imagine the flight of the ball some fractions of a second ahead of time.

There are many claims on a cricketer’s attention from other points in time; times past and times future – which disrupt the attention from things happening now.

So called scoreboard pressure is a claim on a batsman’s attention from time future.  Cricketers limitating their shot repertoire as they come up to intervals, the need for a night-watchman to risk a tight run to gain strike are further examples of the future intruding on the now.

Pressure from ‘dot balls’ is a claim on attention from time past. Former failures against bowlers also reach into the ‘now’ from a batsman’s past.

Playing one ball at a time is an often advocated if difficult tactic.  In the days, post WWII, when the ‘ideal’ of batting identified a single ‘correct’ shot to every ball, this tactic indeed made sense.

Now that cricketers train to develop a multitude of shots to an identical ball, past events in a series, a match, an innings or even in an over can legitimately influence tactical choices, as time past presses on consciousness and competes with ‘now’ for a cricketer’s attention.

For winning at cricket, self control of one’s place in time is therefore as important to master and as difficult to achieve as self control of the speed of time treated in the earlier posting.

The past and the future distort the sensation of Time and make the choice of which time to inhabit more complex.

Breaks or intervals disrupt a batsman’s ease of chosing well this place in time. 

As Time Travellers are only too aware, a failure to concentrate is actually the failure to place oneself  and keep oneself in the right place in time.

Yesterday at Perth, Hughes fell immediately after a drinks break and today Pietersen fell immediately after voluntarily breaking his innings (and prejudicing his self mastery of time) to change bats.

As the ICC’s third and fourth ranking nations slug it out, toe to toe, England risk being identified as Flat Track Bullies who can’t hack pace and bounce. All this when the radar is seldom clocking anything above mid-eighties.  Some would say, ‘if you can’t play off the back foot, get out of the kitchen’.

Meanwhile Australia look as reliant on terroir as their wine making compatriots.

UPDATE: to see a wonderful example of how a batsman can control his place in time and locate himself at will in the ‘now’ we only had to wait a few days for Trott’s innings at Melbourne in the fourth Test analysed here.

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Of Seizing Stumps and Submissive Smiles

First, those stumps.  Six trophies were on offer at Adelaide as England, literally with the field to themselves, celebrated their victory and divided the spoils amongst themselves.  

One for Pietersen.  One for Cook.  One for Swann.  One for Anderson, whose two wickets in the first quarter of an hour secured the match, if not yet the Ashes, if not quite yet the series.  Which leaves two to be assigned.

Third Man thinks that England in their present frame of mind and Australia in theirs will take for granted that they are England’s to bequeath – that is, to give by their will and their will alone. 

One for their Field Marshall, Andy Flower, remembering that the only day that England may be judged to have lost so far in this series happened when he was absent.

And one for their fallen comrade, Stuart Broad, who Team England will do all they can to cuddle through the next twelve weeks of lonely rehabilitation for his muscle tear.

Secondly, the smiles.  

There is more than one kind of smile.  There are the smiles of happiness, of love, and of pride.  The smiles of genuine pleasure, the insolent smile and the shivering smile of determined vengeance.

But there is also the submissive smile of the Beta Male to the Alpha Male.  The smile of genuflection, with knee bent to the ground, eyes lowered and forehead foremost.  This has been the Australian smile, time after time.

From before Brisbane, Australia have communicated only DOUBT in themselves.  From early Shield and tour matches, from the 17 squad selection, from pre-match, mid-match and post-match interviews in Brisbane and in Adelaide, from the kicking of turf, the hunching of shoulders, the burying of necks in shoulders, the cursing, the being rattled – with every muscle they have screamed their disbelief.

Most matches are won before a ball is bowled.  They are won in the minds of those who compete.  They are won before the aptly named ‘boundary’ is crossed.

Australia once taught England the great lesson: start with the mind, for power comes from the will.  Over the last month or more they have bequeathed supremacy to England.

“Thanks mate.”

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Pietersen Wins Test with a Bouncer?

Yes, it is turning.  Yes, there are footholds to be exploited. Yes there are minor explosions as the ball rips through the top of the wicket sending Adelaide earth flying.

But most significant of all is the fact that this has been a bit of a Tennis Ball Bounce Wicket all along.  That is the reason why, weather permitting, England will win the second Ashes Test in less than 24 hours.

Matt Prior has been taking decent length deliveries from Swann at hip height or higher.

The last ball of the day from part-time-Pietersen rose steeply and was played by Clarke off his hip, onto his thigh pad and was still rising as it ballooned over Cook’s right shoulder before being snaffled in time by the backward diving short leg.

Nor was it a particularly ‘flighted’ ball that bounced like Third Man’s old friend the tennis ball.

The manner, the vicitim and the timing of the dismissal combined to make it a huge wicket in the context of this series.  But it begs the question, how would England have coped on this wicket if they had been batting against spinners of the quality of Harbhajan Singh and Mendis?  

It would have been a wonderful contest to watch, but Third Man’s money would have been on the spinners – spinners plural you note. 

And it would have been fascinating to see how much bounce Monty could have extracted from this pitch  had he had the chance to bowl today.

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Shared Experiences in the Two Hundreds

As Kevin Pietersen probably discovered a few hours ago, when you get into the two hundreds your memory can become a little spongy about earlier stages in your innings – you may also become prone to mild hallucinations.

As regular readers know, Third Man is about 290 not out*, having been born in the late 1720s.  He was therefore a mere strip of a boy when the Laws were re-written at the Star and Garter during that very fine season of ‘44

‘Lemonade for the Boy,’ had said his Grace the Duke that night, “And bring paper, a quill and ink. We can’t let it happen again.”

So, when Third Man woke this morning and scraped the ice off the time machine to check the batteries and to see that everything was as it should be, he was surprised to find that a few readers had been travelling back to a long forgotten post in the log for the 1st of September, 2010 – Will the Old Kevin Pietersen Please Stand Up 

TM has been banging on about the changes Pietersen had made to his trigger movement which had the effect of surrendering the radical positioning his innovating genius had created for him.

But as this scoring chart for his innings of 213 not out, made in 296 balls identifies, the return to something like his old trigger is getting him on the right side of the ball and producing a 60:40 ratio of on-side to off-side scoring. 

This and the use of his huge reach on the front foot meant that, in his first 100 runs, not a single one of them was scored in the quadrant behind square on the off-side.

But TM still thinks that O’Keefe who bowled KP in Hobart (see here)  might have posed more problems than poor Master Doherty. 

On the other hand, Hauritz, must be walking round Sydney tonight with a smile on his face.

Here at the cottage on the Squire’s estate at World’s End, the worst of the hallucinations seem to have passed and TM can’t for the life of him find anywhere that old mobile phone (pictured at the top of the page)  – he must have been dreaming.

*As AE theorized, and TM knows only too well, travelling through time  plays havoc with the aging process.

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The Sting

For Malaysian born Stephen Norman John O’Keefe  his 25th birthday present came a few days early at Bellerive Oval, Hobart, earlier today where he was playing for Australia A against the England Touriusts in only is tenth first class match.

He had already captured the wicket of Alastair Cook.  He bowled Cook some flat suff, one of which was cut for four.  Then he tossed one up. Cook, as is his want, predictably plonked his right foot down the track and swung his bat round it, instead of keeping his leg out of the way and hitting straight through the ball and the spin.  

It looked as if O’Keefe had worked him out on the dunny.

The left arm finger spinner followed this piece of clever bowling with a maiden over against the new batsman, Pietersen.  In the next over Cameron dismissed Trott.  Two wickets had fallen in the space of just 15 balls and there was a sense that the balance of the game was moving a shade towards Australia A.

He then bowled another maiden to Pietersen.  Cameron conceded a four to Collingwood which allowed the critical duel to continue between King Kevin and Canny O’Keefe.

He ducks his head as he bowls and is a touch round armed.  Added to which he bowls from wide of the crease and has an extremely high kick from his trailing leg as he twists violently on his front foot to give him a whippy action.  He is well set to deliver arm balls.

In O’Keefe’s next over Pietersen pushed the first ball defensively to mid on.  To the second ball the batsman advanced and lofted the ball over wide mid-on for four.  The next ball, again angled in, was shorter and flatter and Pietersen stayed inside it, forcing it off the back foot into the covers.

Ball four continued the run of arm balls and, again, Pietersen stayed inside the ball on the back foot with the off and middle stumps visible to O’Keefe.

The old Pietersen with his pronounced trigger movement would have already been positioned across his stumps from which he would have played these last two balls into the on side, perhaps with the same result as ball two.  But the new Pietersen has abandoned his old Unique Vantage Point (UVP) that brought him so much success playing through the on-side at will. 

For Redford O’Keefe, the set up was now very nearly complete.  The fifth ball was bowled from wide of the crease with an even wider arm angling the ball into Pietersen who played defensively forward yet once more inside-out.

Now for the Sting.  Ball six was bowled from a similar angle, but this one turned, to beat the outside edge despite Pietersen’s belated effort to follow the ball with the bat and his body.

This superb photograph shows the creased skin of his top wrist as it twisted to follow the ball and the raised heel of his right boot as he made his adjustment, but it was to no avail, the bail had already hit the back of his helmet.

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Figures in for the Season

Statisticians have been working day and night to bring us the numbers that matter – House Martins.  Regulars here will recall that Third Man for half the year shares his humble cot on the Squire’s estate with these engaging fellow residents – see  South African Tourists Arrive  and Departing Visitors.

The British Trust for Ornithology has just published its results for their 2010 House Martin Survey.   One fact that stands out is that the number of respondents has fallen dramatically this year.  So … if you can, Third Man is sure that your help in 2011 will be much appreciated.

The average number of nests per respondent is also down which was in line with the experience here.  2009 was a bumber year but this year’s figures must be a worry.  The northerly winds that brought volcanic ash to our skies earlier this year also made the northward progress of many of these birds particularly demanding.

Here is the BTO newsletter with some of the results.  There is a wonderful photograph of the eaves of a farmhouse with a nest between every beamend in a total of 35 active nests for the entire building.

On many grounds these good friends are an intrinsic part of the cricketing experience.  KP is not the only one who has headed for Southern Africa this autumn.  Let’s hope the House Martins have been more successful.

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Will the Old Kevin Pietersen Please Stand Up

Dear Kevin Pietersen ,

Below, thanks to YouTube and Channel 4, is some film of your remarkable 2005 Ashes innings at the Oval.    It’s a chance for you to watch yourself batting against the best pace and spin around at the time.  Sure, you had some luck but there’s ample proof of the brilliance that was all of your own.

At the time you were reinventing the art of batting, something that only a few have been able to do in a game that has been played for hundreds of years. It was little short of a revolution in technique.

Look at the extent of the openness of your pre-trigger stance to McGrath, for example, at 23 seconds. By 24 seconds you have taken a huge step across and moved the front foot down towards the bowler.  Your head, upright and still, is a good six inches outside the line of off stump guard.

A slow motion sequence from a camera angle across from extra cover shows the process.  Stop to see frames at 41, 42 and 43 seconds.

The reason that the selectors thought you might struggle and left you out of the 2005 Bangladesh series was in fact the reason that you would actually excel.  You tore up the text book, but this was your strength not your weakness.

A series of dismissals to left arm orthodox spin seems to have persuaded you to stay more leg side of the ball.  As the film below of you batting against Mohammid Asif shows, you have scaled down the trigger so that you are batting nearer to the line of the middle and off stumps.

Just as your giant stride destroys length, once upon a time your trigger destroyed the corridor of uncertainty.  You have surrendered this territory back to the bowler almost as if you have been battered, finally, into responding to the concerns of those selectors five years ago.  

Could there be a better place than the Oval to rediscover the old you?  But leave the hair and the Woodworm to history.

Best wishes

Third Man

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