Mark Butcher: Pietersen's forward thinking
England's new hero has a fearless streak you just cannot teach
Sunday 31 July 2005
Only one match in, it would be foolish to start making grandiose statements about what he might or might not achieve in the game, but it is safe to say he looks as though he might be around for a bit. He has a method which he has clearly worked on and which suits him, but one factor which marked him out, particularly in the game at Lord's, was that he was very definite in his movements.
Other players were getting out and partly that was because they were not definite or positive. Pietersen was. His footwork was extremely decisive. Now, he is fundamentally a front-foot player and that meant that when he was facing Glenn McGrath he played forward and got a long way down. And that gave him a distinct advantage.
Another thing that works for Pietersen against McGrath is that he steps across his stumps. It is something he does, it is a method that works for him and it helped him to nullify McGrath's movement in. I have seen it suggested that other England batsmen would benefit from trying it. I would suggest in response they would end up getting out lbw quite a lot. It is something that Pietersen has developed for himself.
He played pretty much the same way as far as I could tell as he has in one-day cricket. He simply adjusted his game to the circumstances so that he left the ball more and hit it when he could. He also looks utterly fearless: that you can't teach.
Pietersen was not the only good point to come out of England's defeat. There was the bowling, especially of Stephen Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones, who is really coming on. Freddie so often looks our best bowler and that means he is going to get a lot of overs. In turn that brings questions about where he should bat.
Move him down and you would have to bring in an extra batsman and drop a bowler. Australia do it but then they have Shane Warne to keep one end tight while they effectively rotate three seamers. Nobody else does.
Ashley Giles has been England's holding bowler. The way he has turned over- the-wicket left-arm spin bowling into a minor art form has been bloody fantastic but Ash always knew that the Aussies were going to come at him. Not for them kicking the ball away outside leg stump, they are going to run down the wicket at him and hit against the spin. This gives him a chance, but he may also have to think of revising his line, perhaps coming round the wicket and being more attacking. You have to make them think.
Of course, you can come up with all sorts of reasons for what happened at Lord's, dropped catches, some dodgy fielding, letting them get too many in the second innings, but these are almost peripherals. We did not make enough runs in either innings. In neither did we reach 200 and that was not good enough and the players will know it was not good enough.
However, I know this team and how it works and they will be working hard on what happened, eliminating error. One thing that has amused me looking at the team that played in the First Test is the batting line-up. For two years virtually it was unchanged, set in stone, yet four of the top six had never played against Australia, one had played three Tests and one was making his debut.
It cannot be what the selectors had in mind when they started planning for the Ashes after the last time we lost them. But through quirks and twists of fate that is what happened, so for one reason or another myself, Graham Thorpe and to a lesser extent Nasser Hussain were not there when we might have been expected to be.
Everybody will now know that when you play Australia you enter a new world. There is Test cricket and then there is Australia. We can come back from this, of course, but do not forget - to win the Ashes we have to win at least two Tests now. Lose at Edgbaston and the Ashes, I feel, will not be coming home.
I was at the Twenty20 finals yesterday. Surrey, my team, were there, of course, because they won a bowl-out in the quarter-final. It was a bit of a farce but it was also high drama and it occurred to me that there should never be ties in any Twenty20 matches. If group matches finish level then go to the bowl-out. It was a game created for crowds and the crowds loved it.
Mark Butcher was talking to Stephen Brenkley
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