Saturday, 20 August 2011

KP: Lap of the gods

'The wheel has to turn,' Kevin Pietersen said simply, and it has. In the 15 innings he's played since the 227 in Adelaide, he has made three of his four highest Test scores and his average is back above 50. His knock yesterday summoned all of his quirky brilliance, and also the pernicious nature of cricket's gods.

There really is no other way to think about the game sometimes. No-one works harder than KP, and to overcome his long drought, he went back to the book. Both of his double hundreds, plus his 85 at the Rose Bowl against Sri Lanka [an equally high-quality innings], were most notable for the way he determined to hit everything down the ground. There is no better principal to abide by, and none better to watch.

With his swagger back, he spent the first part of his innings yesterday determined to ignore it. Ishant Sharma almost bowled him round his legs several times. Last ball before lunch he blundered into the most obvious leg slip trap ever set. On 88 he screwed a hoick just wide of mid-off. He hit the second ball after tea straight up in the air, having gone to hundred from the first. At times Bell made him look like an oaf.

Any and all of these incidents would have done for him when his luck was down and the wheel was yet to turn. What was intriguing about this almost endlessly fascinating player was his willingness to ride his luck, almost to trust it. There's a part of batting that is about fatalism, about the nature of chance, and Pietersen more than most seems willing to allow it to be part of his game. He really is extraordinary.

9 comments:

tai haku said...

Really interesting to see his comments on a couple of his shots at close of play - things normal cricketers look at as free-wheeling risk-taking, KP was looking at as something he'd analysed and saw as a completely risk-free enterprise. I think a lot of the time we underestimate how clever he is because he can, as you say, look like an oaf.

Brit said...

The wheel has to turn, indeed.

Simon Barnes has a piece in today's Times about how Bell and Pietersen have swapped a bit of each other's humility and arrogance, hence massive runs. Neat but oversimplified. And hard to draw sweeping conclusions as this Indian attack is flattered by 'popgun'. Honestly, a nation of a billion cricket nuts and they're reduced to RP Singh, a chubby real estate salesman?

KP was always a very clever batsman. I saw his first one-day innings for England at Bristol, when he singlehandedly beat the Aussies in that great summer of 05. He timed it with great maturity, nudging then accelerating with perfection. No oaf, he.

Tim Newman said...

That 85 against SL was an extraordinary innings. He was clearly uncomfortable but dug his way to 15, then 20, and so on, the determination written right across his face. Had it been a film, you would have seen the Devil which possessed him scream and leave his body when he passed his 50. That was the closest an innings gets to an exorcism. I was delighted.

Tim Newman said...

P.S.

Oaf = best word in the English language.

The Old Batsman said...

I should clarify the oaf comment - there was a spell when he was walking across to Ishant when he kept mishitting - inside edges the lot, and Bell was middling everything. Later in the day he was majestic.

John Halliwell said...

When he executed the switch hit I gasped then blurted out to Janet, engrossed in sudoku, "Look at that! When he bats like this he's the best batsman in the world - by a mile." "Yes, I suppose so." came the reply. Then I thought: 'by a mile'? No! Bell, playing like this, is the best batsman in the world. He's got it all. But that bowling! Perhaps there's need to wait for another day, another place, another attack, before getting carried away by switch hits and glorious straight hits for six.

Russ said...

I'm glad someone brought up Pietersen's approach to Sharma. Pietersen hit 29 runs off 41 balls on the leg-side alone off Sharma, mostly batting two yards down the track and a foot outside off. And India let him.

A leg slip, sure, but no yorkers, no coming closer to the stumps (Sharma's pitch map is uniformly well outside off, and hence no lbw was in play), no slower leg breaks, no keeper up to the stumps...

It is a fundamental part of bowling that you need to make a batsman take risks to score runs, and Sharma let KP put himself in a position where even those inside edges and mishits were low risk. It really was terrible cricket.

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Gana said...

best test batsman in the game now is Rahul Dravid batting like a god against this England attack