Samit Patel put himself firmly in the frame for winning the No 6 spot in the England line-up for the forthcoming Test series against India yesterday with a lovely innings of 82 not out. But the man himself was not admiring his own technique, but rather that of the man who batted with him, new captain Alastair Cook. Patel was also more than a little impressed by the "oomph" Kevin Pietersen gives England.
All three made notable contributions on day two of their tour match against India A, Cook's unbeaten 112 the most substantial and Pietersen's frenetic 23 the most eye-catching.
Patel's 82 not out, however, was perhaps the most significant with a view to selection for the first Test in Ahmedabad on 15 November –Cook's first as permanent captain, and Pietersen's first since his fall-out with management. Cook and Patel's unbroken stand of 153 took England to 286 for 4, in reply to India A's 369, after Jonathan Trott (56) had shared a stand of 95 with the captain on the middle day of a match likely to end in a draw here at the Brabourne Stadium today.
Patel has strengthened his prospects of returning to the Test team as a batting all-rounder, in conditions which make his left-arm spin a valuable commodity too, although his spin let him down somewhat on day one.
"It's great to get a good start in the first game and a good score – I feel great," he said. "But there's still a lot of work to do and two (warm-up) games left, so I haven't got that position yet. I'm getting better, and the more games I play the better I'll be."
The 27-year-old then spoke of Cook and Pietersen in glowing terms. "I thought Cooky played out of his skin. To bat all day is a great effort. Chef's character and work ethic is outstanding, and it shows in his batting. One of our things is to grind and grind as a unit and keep India in the dirt ..."
Patel is less than a month older than Cook, so has seen the opener's qualities at close quarters from early in their careers. "Who would ever doubt Cook?" he asked. "Determination and honesty sums up his cricket really, and I'm thrilled to bits for him."
Pietersen sought to dominate during his innings, and was dismissed trying to continue that trend, caught-and-bowled by his old adversary Yuvraj Singh. "Kev started off amazingly," said Patel. "That shows the sort of player he is. It's fantastic to have him. We need that – a bit of oomph to get us going. KP does it outstandingly well, and we're glad to have him back. He looks in fantastic nick."
Pietersen can expect plenty more of Yuvraj this winter. India A captain Suresh Raina confirmed his pre-determined plan to bring the slow left-armer on early in Pietersen's innings, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have the same idea once the Test series starts. Yuvraj has had his previous successes against Pietersen, but the two have become friends too. "Kevin came to the dressing room, and they laughed about it," said Raina.
As long as they don't start exchanging texts...