Pietersen falls one run short of milestone

To emerge from the darkness at the Divisional Stadium, Chittagong seemed distinctly odd. Kevin Pietersen is a big player for big games in big stadiums. But how he needed his innings yesterday in a small game (or at least as small as big games get) in a small stadium.

He batted with complete diligence and concentration. Throughout the week he had practised with fervour and he could not let that go to waste. Of course, he could have done with one more run to complete his 17th Test hundred and it was appropriate that his nemesis, as so often lately, was a left-arm spin bowler.

"One run is really insignificant, though it may not look it on the scoreboard, and I'd have taken 99 this morning, that's for sure," he said. "Funny things happen to cricketers on 99 all around the world."

Pietersen's form in Bangladesh had been abject and he knew it. He had accrued 69 runs from seven innings and apart from having virtually a constant net session, wearing out the part-time bowlers of the port city, he had sought advice.

He name-checked the present England coach, Andy Flower, and he mentioned that he had rung the great India batsman, Rahul Dravid, for advice. He did not mention Duncan Fletcher, but Fletcher has assured the world in his newspaper column that Pietersen had rung him, too.

Fletcher, who eschews publicity if he can, would presumably not want to be left out when it comes to judging who might have saved a man's career. Pietersen might have wished to be cautious in naming a former England coach to spare the present one's feelings.

"I spent hours and hours with Andy Flower in the nets and I had a long conversation with a friend of mine, Rahul, this week and he gave me a few tips," said Pietersen. "I just got a really nice message from him to say that it worked. At the end of the day they don't bat for you but you've got to find information."

Pietersen had a word for his captain Cook, who joined him as one of five batsmen to make a hundred in their first match at the England helm. "It was brilliant," he said. "I did say to him that emotion took over when I scored my hundred at the Oval and I got out the next ball. A hundred is great but 158 is even better." And 100 would have been better than 99. But he really did not mind.

Yesterday in the IPL: Shah stars for Kolkata

*Owais Shah and Angelo Mathews cracked unbeaten half-centuries as the Kolkata Knight Riders kicked off their campaign in the third edition of the Indian Premier League with an 11-run victory over champions the Deccan Chargers in Mumbai yesterday.

Mathews hit an unbeaten 65 and Middlesex's Shah, who has fallen out of favour with England, 58 not out as the Knight Riders, who finished bottom of the table last year, recovered from a poor start to finish with a respectable 161 for 4.

In reply Adam Gilchrist clobbered 54 from 35 deliveries to leave the Chargers well in control of the chase, but their opponents scripted a remarkable turnaround to restrict the Chargers to 150 for 7.

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