Pietersen has fun in the sun to give England sniff of victory
England 474-8 dec India 17-0: Under-fire No 4 rediscovers his mojo as India struggle to replace injured Zaheer
From the start of it all, Kevin Pietersen never conveyed the impression of being riddled by self-doubt. But in long, dark nights of the soul he may just have wondered if it could ever again be like it was yesterday.
The aura of invincibility had faded, the bravura batting that had established his reputation appeared to be a matter only of historical record. Ah, our Kevin of long ago. Regular assertions, usually from others in the dressing room, that it was only a matter of time before it all came good, were examples from the protesteth too much school.
In his last 37 Test innings, Pietersen had made one century, the contribution of a player not at the centre of the action but at its margins. Make that two in 38. On the second day of the first Test, Pietersen's innings of 202 not out in a little more than eight hours took England to a position from which they will find it extremely difficult to lose and may well win.
On a day when the sun at last shone, England declared their innings at 474 for eight and had 25 minutes to bowl at India. They have already made their intentions in this series quite clear.
Pietersen shared partnerships of 110 with Ian Bell, 120 with Matt Prior and 61 with Graeme Swann. India, bereft of their most accomplished bowler, Zaheer Khan, did as well as they might have expected. But ultimately that was not good enough.
With only three specialist bowlers, their wicketkeeper and captain, MS Dhoni, invited himself to bowl straight after lunch. Needs must, perhaps, but here was the number-one team in the world at the greatest ground in the world swapping pads and gloves in the middle of the field. Shades of the village green.
As it happens, Dhoni might have had the prize wicket of Pietersen, which he was first given and then denied on review. It was the second and less fortunate reprieve of an innings which was not the most blazingly spectacular of his 18 Test hundreds and in patches was studiously dull.
The innings was the work of an artisan rather than a virtuoso, but its importance to team and player can hardly be overstated. Resolute in the straightness of his bat, he took no risks calculated or otherwise until late in the piece. Not entirely a new Pietersen, but not a familiar one either.
Reached in 216 balls, it was the slowest of his Test hundreds and the air punching which greeted it – with an on-drive for four, his 10th, that was a reminder of his peerless flamboyance – was born of relief as much as jubilation. When he reached 200 with a ferociously slashed four 110 balls later, the last 50 from 25, the whirlwind celebrations on one knee were of yore.
Batting was not as complicated a proposition as it had been on the first day but it demanded careful judgement that Pietersen was utterly intent on providing. He and England were undoubtedly helped by the fix India found themselves in.
Khan was having urgent treatment on his strained hamstring and though the tourists hope he may be fit to bowl later in the match, the fashion in which he walked round the outfield was not exactly languid.
In the circumstances, they would have been doubly grateful for the incisions of Praveen Kumar, who exhibited some bowling skills of an extremely high calibre. Having had Jonathan Trott lbw while trying to work the ball to the leg side in the morning, he produced a minor masterclass in the afternoon.
His lack of pace will always be a handicap but it was still versatile bowling, moving it this way and that. He persuaded Bell, who had seemed once more in supreme touch, to edge an away-swinger and then cut one back fractionally to Eoin Morgan in the same over. That Dhoni took the first of these chances, low to his right, was a matter of minor surprise considering his unfamiliarity with the position.
Kumar then accounted for Prior, who had been typically belligerent in securing his fourth score above 50 in his last six innings but died by the sword when edging a fierce cut behind. Stuart Broad, playing for his place lest we forget, was then duped by the next ball and Pietersen decided it was time to have fun in the sun. After all these years, nobody does it better.
He deserved his slices of fortune, though he was desperately lucky to escape with the first piece when he was on 49. It had been possible to wonder why a leg slip had been put in place – until, that is, it became clear. Pietersen, in attempting to flick Kumar to leg, was deceived by the extremity of the swing and the ball flew low to Dravid, not yet in gauntlets.
He swooped low and it looked like he had taken a clean catch. India, however, did not celebrate extravagantly as they might have done and though Dravid's doubts seemed to have been allayed by the television replay requested by the umpires, the evidence was deemed not to be incontrovertible.
When he was on 73, Pietersen was given out caught behind. What a ring to it the scoreboard would have had: c Dravid (wk) b Dhoni. But Pietersen immediately requested a review and Dhoni's initial and understandable elation was cut short. Whatever else the ball had hit, it was not the bat.
These are the sort of interventions that Pietersen has not enjoyed for too long. He left more balls than he usually does but once he realised the innings was drawing to a close he rolled back the years. Racing into the 190s he clubbed occasional spinner Suresh Raina for a six into the members in front of the pavilion and then reached his third Test double hundred with his 21st four.
The declaration came immediately. Pietersen is back. It will be some time before the question of what's to be done about Kevin is asked again.
Stats magic: The numbers that matter from the second day
69: The number of overs bowled by Zaheer Khan this year before he started the tour of England. And having sent down 20 overs during Somerset's first innings last week, he was bizarrely "rested" for the second innings.
3: M S Dhoni had bowled just three overs in his previous 57 Tests – all in one-over spells (against Pakistan, in 2006, England, 2008, and New Zealand, 2010).
216: Kevin Pietersen took 216 balls to reach his 18th Test century – his slowest yet. But he accelerated once past 50, having used 134 deliveries to get to the halfway point.
20: Pietersen had gone 20 Test innings without making a hundred in England, dating back to The Oval nearly three years ago when he celebrated being installed as captain by hitting a century against South Africa.
13: This is England's 13th Test match without a debutant in the side, their longest stretch ever. Eoin Morgan was the last debutant, at Trent Bridge in 2010. The record run of Tests without fielding a player winning his first cap is held by South Africa who played 21 matches between January 2007 and November 2008.
6: None of the last six captains to win the toss and bowl in their first match as captain in England have gone on to lead their team to victory. All were at Lord's. Shakib al Hasan (2010), Chris Gayle (2009), Brian Lara (2004) and Heath Streak (2003) all lost to England, Shahid Afridi (2010) lost to Australia, while Ramnaresh Sarwan (2007) managed a draw.
At the double: Three and easy for England's no 4
Kevin Pietersen's double century yesterday was the third time he has passed 200 for England in Tests:
*227 v Australia (Adelaide), December 2010
*226 v West Indies (Headingley), May 2007
*202 not out v India (Lord's), July 2011
Other double centuries by England's top order
235 v Australia (Brisbane), Nov 2010
226 v Bangladesh (Lord's), May 2010
203 v Sri Lanka (Cardiff), May 2011
Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan have not scored a double century for England in Tests
*Pietersen reached 6,000 runs for England in his 128th innings yesterday – only Wally Hammond (114), Len Hutton and Ken Barrington (both 116) have reached the landmark at a quicker rate
*It was his fourth century against India, his most against any nation
First Test: Lord's (Second day of five): India are trailing England by 457 runs with all first-innings wickets in hand
India won toss
England; First Innings Continued Overnight 127-2
I J L Trott lbw b Kumar: 70
140 balls 0 sixes 9 fours
K P Pietersen not out: 202
326 balls 1 sixes 21 fours
I R Bell c Dhoni b Kumar: 45
76 balls 0 sixes 6 fours
E J G Morgan c Dhoni b Kumar: 0
3 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
†M J Prior c Dhoni b Kumar: 71
93 balls 0 sixes 8 fours
S C J Broad lbw b Kumar: 0
1 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
G P Swann b Raina: 24
28 balls 0 sixes 4 fours
C T Tremlett not out: 4
5 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
Extras: (b14 lb8 w1 nb1)24
Total (for 8 dec, 131.4 overs): 474
Fall: 1-19, 2-62, 3-160, 4-270, 5-270, 6-390, 7-390, 8-451.
Did Not Bat: J M Anderson.
Bowling: Z Khan 13.3-8-18-2, P S Kumar 40.3-10-106-5, I Sharma 32-5-128-0, Harbhajan Singh 35-3-152-0, M S Dhoni 8-1-23-0, S K Raina 2.4-1-25-1.
India; First Innings
A Mukund not out: 8
24 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
G Gambhir not out: 7
14 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
Extras (nb2): 2
Total (for 0, 6.0 overs): 17
To Bat: R Dravid, S R Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, S K Raina, *†M S Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan, P S Kumar, I Sharma.
Bowling: J M Anderson 3-1-9-0, C T Tremlett 3-0-8-0.
Umpires: Asad Rauf and B F Bowden.
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