Familiar Pietersen goes missing

Familiar Pietersen goes missing

England batting star looks for form and consistency in one-dayers

It’s a Friday the former England captain would love to forget quickly, but memories of the first one-dayer against India are unlikely to fade away rapidly.

A string of costly misfields that cost his team at least a dozen runs, a couple of nasty blows to his fingers courtesy well-directed short deliveries from former Royal Challengers team-mate R Vinay Kumar, and his eventual dismissal off a direct hit from R Ashwin for a scratchy 29-ball 19 rounded off a miserable evening for the man who can never stay away from the spotlight.

Friday was the right-hander’s comeback to one-day cricket after having been ‘rested’ for the home series against India. That ‘resting’ had as much to do with the desire to try out young blood a very poor record in the last three years and 33 one-dayers, which have yielded a frugal 705 runs at the unedifying average of 22.74.

Poor run

That there is plenty of quality cricket still left in him was obvious during the Test series against India, when ‘KP’ made a masterly double hundred in the first Test at Lord’s. He has, however, found the one-day puzzle far more difficult to crack of late, his poor run coinciding with the post-captaincy era.

At his best, Pietersen is a brutal destroyer of bowling attacks. Standing tall in his crease and unafraid to charge the quickest in the business, he is capable of tearing the best attacks apart. On Friday, on a reasonably sluggish surface, he copped serious physical punishment from Vinay – hardly in the express category – as the Karnataka medium-pacer brilliantly exploited Pietersen’s propensity to give his hand away by charging the bowler early.

There were one or two authoritative strokes, but by and large, Pietersen’s 29-ball stint was a laboured effort. The loss of confidence was all too obvious, the fact that he hasn’t scored a century since making an undefeated 111 in Cuttack on November 26, 2008 clearly weighing on his mind. It’s unlikely that Pietersen would have made the trip to India had Eoin Morgan not had to undergo surgery. A lean World Cup and two failures in three outings against Sri Lanka subsequently seemed to have brought a temporary halt to his one-day career, until the left-handed Morgan’s injury resuscitated Pietersen.

Lone bright moment

On the field in Hyderabad, Pietersen looked distracted and as if his mind was somewhere else. With the bat, the usual arrogance was conspicuously absent. His lone moment of redemption came when he climbed high at long-off to get rid of Virat Kohli, but the negatives were far too many for that one act to serve as redemption.

Whether Alastair Cook had Pietersen in mind when he said, “Like Graeme Swann, we need all our senior players to do well” is open to debate. What is not, however, is that ‘KP’ is chomping at the bit. And there are few things more dangerous than a pride-pricked, ego-bruised Kevin Pietersen.

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