Kevin Pietersen’s wicket on Saturday handed Australia the upper hand over England after Day Two of the third Ashes 2013-14 Test in Perth. While the headlines were that he had been dismissed for a 10th time by Peter Siddle, the real news is that England have gone quite behind in the Test and they may not realise it till after play begins on Day Three. Another topic of discussion is that of Pietersen’s shot. Shrikant Shankar writes that Pietersen let himself, his teammates and England down with an unnecessary shot.
Anyone can get out at anytime to a great ball. The ball might begin on the line of the leg-stump but start swinging away to the off-side after pitch on middle. It might continue shaping away and knock the top of off-stump. There is nothing that any batsman can do to tackle such a delivery. Or he might get one pitching on a back of a length but it would climb towards his helmet. If he is almost through his shot, he will not connect well and is more likely to lose his wicket. This is acceptable. However, when one gets a long-hop bowled at a speed of 133 kmph and the batsman completely miscues a pull to mid-on, it is intolerable — especially if he is a top-notch world-class batsman.
So when Kevin Pietersen got out to Peter Siddle for the 10th time, in the manner mentioned above, one knows that it is unacceptable for a batsman of his caliber. It isn’t only about England’s position in the game but batsmen cannot throw their wickets away like that in any form of the game. However, consider where the third Test at Perth stood then. Here is a team that is trailing the another by 239 runs on Day Two of a Test. Pietersen let himself, his teammates and England down by playing that pull shot to hand Australia the advantage.
This wasn’t one of his slam-bang innings, where he blazed through for a century and put England in a commanding position. He was batting to keep England alive in the five-match series, where they trail 2-0 after two Tests. Pietersen was batting on 19 off 59 balls. His innings included only one four and was batting cautiously. It is known that Pietersen is a dominating batsman, but the Australian bowlers managed to keep him quiet.
On Saturday, runs were hard to come by for Pietersen. After almost seeing out a testing time in the middle at the WACA, he threw it away in a moment of indiscretion. One would argue that it is a part of Pietersen’s natural game and he has made a name for himself with his free-stroking bating. . But a batsman’s real greatness is not only measured on his most fluent knocks. Innings which come when the team has its back to the wall help determine the character of a batsman. Pietersen has to script that knock as England need him to resurrect their Ashes campaign.
England, although trailing Australia by a big margin, look a better side with Pietersen still batting — no matter what the score. So, when he is back in the dressing room, one knows that England are all the more weaker. He has a chance to make amends in the second innings, but England are already behind in the match and it will take some effort to get back.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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