Pietersen has charmed life but still waits for century

Form if not fortune eludes England's star turn but it is unlikely to prevent another convincing victory today
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And still the wait goes on. It has now been 23 innings and 17 months since Kevin Pietersen last scored a Test century. Godot has already arrived and at this rate the Labour leadership election could be over before it happens again.

If the fates were ever conspiring for Pietersen to make his 17th hundred for England in the long form of the game, it seemed to be on the second day of the Second Test. Pakistan once more made life hard for themselves, declining to do the simple things well, not least with regard to Pietersen, and they will go 2-0 down in the series today.

During his innings of 80 over 216 minutes, England's erstwhile leading batsman was dropped three times, had an escape when he was caught off a belatedly called dead ball and held up play for a toilet break.

There were shafts of sunlight both real and metaphorical, though while Pietersen was in occupation both were fleeting. Occasionally he reminded another less-than-full house of the days of yore. There were a couple of fierce clips through the on side, some clumps through the off and one straight hit which persuaded the thought that he still has it.

It was not, however, vintage Pietersen. Far from it, and he was out tamely, prodding a return catch to Saeed Ajmal's off-spin. It was as well that Pietersen rode his luck as he did – and maybe some luck was essential – since his dismissal provoked a clatter of wickets. England lost their last seven for 46 runs, following the six they shed for 17 at Trent Bridge.

England can collapse every bit as efficiently as Pakistan but they have twice in the series been saved by one partnership. In the First Test, it was 219 between Eoin Morgan and Paul Collingwood, while here it was 133 between Pietersen and Jonathan Trott. It permitted them a generous lead of 179, and long before the tourists could make any inroads into the deficit they had lost their captain, Salman Butt.

Poor Butt, Man of the Match in the Lord's Test against Australia, received a humdinger of a delivery from Jimmy Anderson which appeared to swing late from the line of leg stump. Perhaps Butt did well to get a bat on it but he was caught at first slip and now has 16 runs from his four innings in this series.

Butt seems to wear the cares of captaincy lightly but this is no way to secure a long tenure. Pakistan had made 19 for 1 from 17.1 necessarily vigilant overs when bad light halted play for the final time. Azhar Ali took 15 balls to ensure he did not finish with a pair but at least he was still in occupation at the end.

The day was one of those that struggled to find any sense of pace or rhythm. There was a delay at the start, two more afterwards, which meant an extended final session of three hours. It was at least action-packed.

Pietersen's travails dominated the opening skirmishes. With barely quarter of an hour played he was missed off an eminently straightforward chance which looped to Umar Amin at gully. It was much easier to catch than to drop it, but by now Pakistan were intent on finding different ways not to take catches. Sorry as it was possible to feel, there could be no excuses: it was woeful.

Before long, Pietersen backed away as Mohammad Asif ran up, as if to demonstrate that he was not ready, but then instead of letting the ball go – it probably would have hit his stumps – he hit it to mid-off, where Butt took the catch. But dead ball was signalled and although Pakistan, understandably, were not happy it was equally clear that Pietersen was indeed not ready to receive the ball. But he should not have hit it and, had it gone for four, it would have been fascinating to see what would then have ensued. Pietersen later apologised for the incident.

Shortly after, a ball looped out on the off side between Pakistani fielders. No leg bye was called. It was another escape. This sort of thing can happen to players searching for form in these sorts of conditions. Pietersen then decided he needed to leave the field for a toilet break.

Trott surveyed all this, playing with rigid control and determination. Both batsmen reached their fifties with the best strokes of their innings, Pietersen clipping a trademark four on the leg side, Trott driving a straight boundary. It was a surprise when Trott was out to Umar Amin – for whom the term military medium would bestow a dignity on his bowling it does not deserve – cutting loosely to gully. Trott was not happy and he had good reason not to be so.

The longest delay of the day proved to be England's undoing, although the match progressed apace. Pietersen departed to a standing ovation after facing 147 balls. It is said that he still divides opinion but there is nothing like a poor run of form to win friends and influence people.

His recent vulnerability may yet give him a new status, though by now he will be desperate to forget that the gloriously paced 102 he made in Trinidad in March 2009 was his most recent hundred.

Morgan, the hero of Nottingham, perished to the extremely clever Asif, who sent one across him which nipped away slightly. Asif, bowling at below 80mph, has been a pleasure to watch during the past few weeks, in the Anderson category as a manipulator of a cricket ball which consistently does his will.

But it was Ajmal who picked up the late England wickets. Matt Prior was patently leg-before sweeping, a verdict upheld on review. Collingwood was, lo and behold, caught at slip when turning to leg, but not before some characteristic obduracy. Stuart Broad nudged to leg slip and finally Graeme Swann, who had been dropped once – the sixth miss of the innings – was caught and bowled.

It was Ajmal's first five-wicket haul in Test matches. He waved the ball to the crowd, once more bereft of Asian support, as the team left the field. He will remember the day but he must have known that the outcome of the match was heading only one way.

Timeline

11.31am: Slow out of the blocks

Play starts half an hour late after a delay for rain.



11.47am: Third time lucky for KP

Kevin Pietersen is dropped for the third time in the match when an inside edge on to his pad loops gently to gully, where Umar Amin manages to shell the simplest of chances.

11.55am: No backing out now

Pietersen backs off as Mohammad Asif runs in, as if he is not ready. But he hits the ball in the air to mid-off where Salman Butt takes the catch. It seems umpire Marais Erasmus called dead ball before signalling it but Pakistan are disappointed.



12.0pm: Pietersen's going loopy

Pietersen escapes again when the ball loops into no man's land between gully and cover point.



1.21pm: Like starting from scratch

Pietersen clips four through mid-wicket to bring up a scratchy 50.



1.43pm: KP in the comfort zone

After leaving the field for a toilet break, Pietersen immediately takes 11 in an over from Saeed Ajmal.

2.12pm: Trott is finally reined in

Jonathan Trott, who has been quietly going about his business while watching Pietersen's travails, suddenly cuts Umar Amin to gully.



4.0pm: Rain on England's parade

Play resumes after a second break of the day, of 95 minutes. England are in for a fraught final session.

4.21pm: After all that luck...

Pietersen out when he prods back a return catch off an apparently innocuous ball from Saeed Ajmal.



5.05pm: Not taking any chances

Graeme Swann is put down by Yasir Hameed at slip. It's Pakistan's sixth dropped catch. They stage a belated comeback, but what might've been?

Stephen Brenkley

Birmingham scoreboard

Pakistan won toss

Pakistan – First innings 72

England – First innings (Overnight 112-2)

I J L Trott c sub b Umar Amin (125 balls, 7 fours) 55

K P Pietersen c and b Saeed Ajmal (147 balls, 12 fours) 80

P D Collingwood c Imran Farhat b Saeed Ajmal (70 balls, 4 fours) 28

E J G Morgan c Zulqarnain Haider b Mohammad Asif (15 balls) 6

†M J Prior lbw b Saeed Ajmal (21 balls, 2 fours) 15

G P Swann c and b Saeed Ajmal (25 balls) 4

S C J Broad c sub b Saeed Ajmal (3 balls) 0

J M Anderson lbw b Mohammad Aamer (14 balls) 0

S T Finn not out (14 balls) 0

Extras (b 10, lb 9, w 1, nb 1) 21

Total (83.1 overs) 251

Fall (cont) 3-177 (Trott), 4-205 (Pietersen), 5-220 (Morgan), 6-243 (Prior), 7-248 (Collingwood), 8-248 (Broad), 9-252 (Anderson), 10-251 (Swann).

Bowling Mohammad Aamer 20-4-57-2, Mohammad Asif 20-5-41-2, Umar Gul 9-1-24-0, Saeed Ajmal 26.1-5-82-5, Umar Amin 8-2-28-1.

Pakistan – Second innings

Imran Farhat not out (51 balls, 1 four) 10

*Salman Butt c Strauss b Anderson (10 balls) 0

Azhar Ali not out (42 balls, 1 four) 5

Extras (b 2, lb 2) 4

Total (1 wkt, 17.1 overs) 19

Fall 1-1 (Butt).

To bat Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, †Zulqarnain Haider, Mohammad Amir, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Asif.

Bowling: J M Anderson 6.1-5-1-1, Broad 7-2-10-0, S T Finn 4-3-4-0.

Umpires S J Davis (Aus) and M Erasmus (SA).

TV Umpire A L Hill (Aus).

Referee R S Madugalle (SL).

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