Muralitharan refuses to be outshone on KP's day
Saturday 27 May 2006
If this was a day that Kevin Pietersen ensured would be memorable, it was one that belonged equally to Muttiah Muralitharan for keeping Sri Lanka within reach of England.
If the extraordinary, unorthodox talents of England's newest folk hero are capable of altering the direction of a match unaided, the same can be said of Sri Lanka's spin bowling phenomenon and this was such an occasion. Yesterday's Birmingham crowd witnessed both men at their extraordinary best, their outrageous abilities encapsulated within the space of three deliveries as Pietersen took his bold, audacious batting to a new level by reverse-sweeping his adversary for six only to fall victim to Murali's mystery weapon - the doosra - just two balls later.
Of the stroke that will be seen as defining his approach to the game, Pietersen admitted it was a moment of cheekiness he may never repeat. "It was a very naughty shot, really," he said. "I got a bit overconfident I suppose, but it was premeditated. All the other boundary options were closed. But I didn't think I would hit it, let alone hit it for six, and it is a shot you probably won't see again for a while."
Murali suffered at other moments, Pietersen taking him for three consecutive fours in another over, but still found the grace to congratulate his opponent. "He played a brilliant innings, dominating the bowling," he said. "Jonty Rhodes once reverse swept me for four, but nobody has ever hit a six that way in a Test match. He is up there with the best in the world at the moment."
But Murali had the last word, obtaining an lbw verdict as Pietersen succumbed to the Sri Lankan's trademark doosra, the disguised delivery that turns away from the right-hander instead of breaking to leg.
"I have a good reach and that negates some of the turn, but to say I pick him better than others is nonsense," Pietersen said. "I promise you I'm clueless." His dismissal set England into freefall, losing their last five wickets for just five runs.
Murali finished with an analysis of 6 for 86 from 25 overs, his best figures in England since his extraordinary performance at the Oval in 1998, on his first Test appearance here, when he took 16 wickets - seven in the first innings, nine in the second - as Sri Lanka achieved a 10-wicket victory. He has taken five or more wickets in an innings an astonishing 52 times.
Moment of the day
Kevin Pietersen stole the show but Andrew Flintoff put him on his backside with a vicious straight drive off the bowling of Muttiah Muralitharan. Pietersen looked indignant as he picked himself up out of the dust after his captain showed him that he could hit the ball hard as well.
Shot of day
Neither I, nor any of my colleagues in the press box, quite know how Pietersen's reverse swept Muralitharan over cover point for six. It was simply astonishing. Pietersen changed his grip as the ball came down the wicket and ended up playing it as a left-hander. What confidence. What cheek. What class.
Ball of day
It may have only removed the England nightwatchman, Matthew Hoggard, but, even so, it was still a tremendous delivery. Chaminda Vaas has once again struggled for wickets in England but the inswinging yorker that knocked out Hoggard's off-stump to dismiss him for just three runs was an absolute beauty.
* Live: 10.30, Sky Sports 1
* Highlights: Five, 19.15
* A wet morning but a drier, brighter afternoon. Max temp: 19C.
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