As the desert sand settled around Alastair Cook's sterling century yesterday, the attention moved sharply to his opening partner. It has never shifted far from Kevin Pietersen since a balmy day at the Oval in 2005 when he plundered Australia but there is the undoubted sense now that he is playing for his one-day career.
He has been moved to the top of the order for this series against Pakistan and will continue there tonight, a sign of desperation as much as strategy. England, as so often before, are eager to accommodate him – once they even made him captain – and though it is not solely a one-way street he continues to be slightly aloof from the rest of the squad.
On this tour, Pietersen has fulfilled no media obligations on behalf of his employers, partly because he has barely scored a run. However, that did not stop all the rest, including Ian Bell, who kept the scorers even less busy, from having to talk the talk.
There is an interest in Pietersen's elevation to opener but he has barely addressed it. Yet tomorrow morning he will travel to Dubai to attend to his duties for sponsors of his Indian Premier League team, Delhi Daredevils.
None of this would matter much but this is a player now officially and badly out of form. He scored 67 runs in six innings in the Test series against Pakistan and a laboured 14 from 36 balls on Monday night.
Maybe Pietersen is the answer to England's quest for a booming player against the hard ball with the fields up, but it is legitimate to ask whether the promotion would have taken place had he been in form in his traditional berth at No 4.
The answer is no. There would have been no need and if another opener to accompany Cook was felt essential somebody else would have been tried. The first attempt to convert Pietersen into a bludgeoning No 2 in the World Cup last year was curtailed when he left the tournament for surgery on a hernia. It was a qualified success, with a top score of 59 in the sensational defeat to Ireland.
Tried again now because Craig Kieswetter was a little too limited to fit the bill, Pietersen has been given a wide-ranging licence. He barely used it on Monday night and by any stretch of the imagination did not respond in the intended manner.Reuse content