Tag Archives: Kevin Pietersen

Runs in the Desert

Even the Squire had never conducted a coaching session in a sand storm before.  

“After a game at Slindon, we once spent the night on the West Wittering sands, but this is a first, Third Man.”

Don't those shoulders look better!

KP wisely accepted the pair of Second World War tank driver’s googles purchased on E-bay for just such an eventuality and took guard outside leg stump.

The Squire had shaved a couple of ounces off his bat with an old coffin shaped smoothing plane picked up from Little Baddow on the way.

After a 360km drive from Dubai through the constantly shifting sculptures of some of the highest dunes in the world, the intrepid travelers had found themselves transfixed by the breathtaking sight of the Liwa Oasis.

“It looks for all the world like runs in the desert,” said KP.

“It’s a secret place that you can’t always find.”

 

Bat & Bowl Team Opposition Ground Match Date Scorecard
0/4, 130 England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 21 Feb 2012 ODI # 3247
111* England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 18 Feb 2012 ODI # 3243
26 England v Pakistan Abu Dhabi 15 Feb 2012 ODI # 3240
14 England v Pakistan Abu Dhabi 13 Feb 2012 ODI # 3238
41 England XI v Eng Lions Abu Dhabi 10 Feb 2012 Other OD
32, 0/9, 18 England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 3 Feb 2012 Test # 2034
14, 1 England v Pakistan Abu Dhabi 25 Jan 2012 Test # 2032
2, 0 England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 17 Jan 2012 Test # 2030
38, 0/3, 3, 1/10 England XI v PCB XI Dubai (GCA) 11 Jan 2012 First-class
0/23, 15, 1/12, 1 England XI v ICC Comb XI Dubai (GCA) 7 Jan 2012 First-class

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India Not Fit for Purpose

It was to be a fascinating contest; the World Champions against some upstarts with the potential to overwhelm weaker opposition, but not yet tested against the best.  Surely England were still a couple of series from being the real thing?

Yesterday, in the fourth encounter this summer between England and India, and after a first day’s play circumcised by rain, the home side’s openers were removed in a blink of still waking eye to full length deliveries.

However, the next two batsmen like supermodels parading down the Oval catwalk in a record breaking partnership totalling 350 made it another long uphill day for India.

This Oval wicket is without its characteristic pace but possesses the character of a crumbly cheese already offering enough turn to discourage any side from volunteering to nibble it last.

Shortly before close of play Pietersen was back in the changing room for 175 from 232 balls.  Bell is still strutting his stuff on 181 from 304 balls.  Test centurions Morgan, Bopara, Prior and Broad have yet to step forward.

Frankly, in the field, India are not fit to play Test cricket – that is not fit physically or mentally. 

On this historic ground that has provided a stage for great cricketing deeds since the 1840s, India’s aging batsmen are a liability in the field.  The younger ones, perhaps emulating their elders, have absented themselves from effort and struggle.

Catches are being dropped and, worse still, catches are being jibbed.  The derision of the crowd was not without justification.

There will be better (and much fitter) bowlers operating in club cricket this afternoon.  There will be far better fielding sides.

Sharma (1/81 in 27), the best on offer, is five or six miles an hour off the pace that he should be able to operate at and, significantly, the movement is all one way – that is, ‘in’ to the right handers who are at liberty to step across and play him freely to the on side.  It is all corridor, and no uncertainty.

Sreesanth (1/95 in 23) is also ‘off the pace’ and, with a ball and conditions that during this entire series have consistently helped the swing bowler, his movement begins from the hand and ends in the middle of the bat.

In truth, ECB will have provided India with better net bowlers for morning practice than the out-of-condition RP Singh (0/96 in 30) who Bell and Pietersen milked with the care of ethical farmers practicing sustainable agriculture.

Mishra (o/129 in 29) looked as menacing as a particularly somnambulant sloth, his variations offering no alarm, his turn serving monotonous defence rather than attack.

As Bell and Pietersen treated the crowd to an exhibition of batting, it was difficult for spectators not to snooze and dream they were watching May and Cowdrey against Ramadhin and Valentine.

Bell modelling the high elbow of haute couture, Pietersen fashioning his revolutionary ‘New Look’ before their eyes; just as W.G. Grace had paraded his radicalism in an innings of 224 not out on his debut here in 1866, and just as John Small a century before that at Broadhalfpenny Down for Hambledon against Kent had broken new ground with a straight bat and innovative technique to tame the new length bowling in a huge innings of 140 runs.

Then, awakening from such revelry, the spectator remembered the quality of the opposition. Pietersen is still providing a window on the future, but this was nowhere as important an innings as the one he played here against the Australians in 2005.

At 457 for 3, England will endeavour to add enough runs today to ensure they do not have to bat again.  Then the great batsmen of India will have one last chance to shine and Swann the opportunity to play his part in a series that is, like a Christmas dinner, fast demonstrating that too much can be as debilitating as too little.

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Goings on at No 42 : England v India Test 100 Day 2

The packed house at the home of cricket in North London could be forgiven for thinking that they had rocked up to be the audience for a filming of that ever popular chat show, The Kumars at No 42.

With Khan hors de combat, attention fell on a diminutive figure instantly recognizable as Ashwin Kumar, head of the family residing at No.42, where, to indulge the dream of his son, Sanjeev, to be a television presenter, the materially obsessed Ashwin had built a television studio in his back garden.

It only remained for those looking on to learn who would be the star guests made to sit on the Kumar’s sofa, where they would alternatively be flattered by Sanjeev, quizzed on the most private of matters by Ummi, fed by Madhuri and audited by Kumar the Elder.

Praveen Kumar Ashwin Kumar

By the end of the day five bewildered guests had come and gone through the front door of the north London mansion in an immaculate demonstration of old fashioned swing bowling. 

They included Trott, Bell, Morgan and Prior.

Praveen ended with figures for the day of 23 overs, 5 maidens, 5 for 60 and figures for the innings of 40.3 overs, 10 maidens, 5 for 106.

But one guest refused to leave.  Kevin Pietersen, who began the day on 22 withstood the mild questioning of those bowlers playing the part of Sanjeev, Ummi and Madhuri and even the more rigorous pecuniary probing of Kumar himself. 

However, the innings was not without controversy that may settle the result of this Test if not the series itself. 

A catch at backward short leg by Dravid when Pietersen was 49 was rejected by the 3rd umprire.

When Pietersen reached his double century with a half an hour of the day’s extended play remaining the programme editor andEnglandcaptain, Andrew Strauss, declared and directed Anderson and Tremlett to probe the Indian openers.

England 474 for 8 declared, India 17 for 0

However, this was actually another day of gripping Deep Cricket during which two individuals in a sport that sets team against team, undertook personal responsibility for the fortunes of their sides.

Pietersen on the first day showed that, for this match at least, he would utilize his old trigger movement (advocated by Third Man here  last September). 

This pronounced movement takes the great innovator across the stumps in a way that immediately clarifies the corridor of uncertainty, removes the danger of an LBW and gives him license to utilize his strongest shots, attacking across the line to the on-side.

The accounts of this match will be full of tributes to the determination,  discipline and later the portentous assault of the exhausted Indian bowling by Pietersen.

But the Bowler’s Club will pay tribute to the 24 year old sub-80 mph swing bowler Praveen Kumar, who stepped into the breech left by Khan.   If India score 350 for 3 on Saturday at Lord’s, the true calibre of Kumar’s feat will be plain for all to see.

So far each England wicket has achieved an average of all-but 60 runs, which to Third Man’s mind makes Kumar’s five-fer worth 300 runs. 

These two ‘dependables’ played together in the IPL and it was heartening to see the marks of mutual respect they accorded one another at the end of England’s innings. 

Pietersen received the ritual standing ovation, Kumar left the field more discreetly.  Most likely he had guests to welcome back at No 42 and was worried Sanjeev wouldn’t have the wit to do things properly unless he was there to supervise the situation.

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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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