One of the grotesque modern joys of English batting was present in all its glory yesterday. Kevin Pietersen was playing against left-arm spin. Not for long – five balls to be exact – but it was a compelling passage which made a humdrum day memorable.
For five balls Pietersen, groped and fended, chased and hurried as Rangana Herath toyed with him. While it lasted, and it was simply never going to last long, it was unbearable to watch while being impossible to take your eyes off.
On the evidence presented, either Mr Bean or M. Hulot may as well go in at No 4 for England. They, too, could be all legs and arms, hapless and desperately trying to make everything seem normal while the world laughed and cried in equal measure.
The preposterous drama was heightened by the delay in his departure. At first Pietersen was given not out but Sri Lanka, slightly hesitantly, asked for a review. Courts of appeal have overturned murder convictions in less time than it took the third umpire, Rod Tucker, to decide that Pietersen had to depart – the 19th time he has been dimissed by a left-arm spinner in Tests.
Replay followed replay, hot spot and camera angles crowded in on each other but eventually the evidence was gathered and the verdict was clear. The batsman could barely drag himself off, which is unusual for him, for the umpire's word is his bond. Pietersen must have had mixed feelings. Of course, he needs some runs for England but this way the embarrassment was done.
When he had gone to dwell yet again on what precisely it is about left-arm spin, England resumed their slow domination of the tourists. Trott, whose predilection for crease occupation shows no sign of waning, ploughed his singular furrow. Joined by Ian Bell, they took England into the lead, though it looks highly improbable that it will be large enough to allow them to push for victory.
Trott was at his most maddening after play eventually began three and a half hours late. He will never win any prizes for style and he will never care. This is an admirable trait but it would have been mildly welcome if, once in a while, he could seek to change the tempo.
It took him 196 balls and 239 minutes to make his first hundred, another 202 balls and 267 minutes to get his second. When Trott was a small boy it must have been quite a scene at home when his mum was telling to get him a move on. It was the second double hundred of his Test career and he now averages close to 66.7, ahead of all Englishmen.
Bell was an altogether different proposition against the anodyne Sri Lanka attack. The bowlers had started the day with admirable discipline. Farveez Maharoof bowled a rigid line outside off stump, often with seven fielders on the off side. Herath bowled over the wicket into the rough at the other end, largely to contain the batsmen – or at least he did until Pieteresen came in.
If Bell, like the others, was frequently shackled he also wanted to break free, as he did with his 10th ball, a straight six, and towards the end played some masterful strokes, not least a reverse sweep and a switch hit through mid-wicket in successive overs.
How Pietersen must have watched and wondered. It seemed as though he had told himself that he had to be assertive, knowing that 18 of his most recent 56 dismissals in Test cricket had been caused by left-arm spin. And now it is 19 from 57. He entered the arena when Alastair Cook's long vigil ended when his slashing cut was edged to the wicketkeeper on the fourth day. The partnership between Cook and Trott had reached 251, the pitch was still pretty slow, the bowling was defensive but still unthreatening.
Herath, who until then had been content to bowl over the wicket and make it difficult for England to score, immediately changed his line and came round the wicket. It opened up the pitch and offered more options. Pietersen, whose season had begun with a dismissal to left-arm spin against Cambridge University, immediately used his feet and struck firmly to mid-wicket. It was a typically defiant blow. Then he pushed at a wider one which went loosely in the air past slips. He had hurriedly, messily to defend two more.
Then one skidded through. Pietersen, stuck in the crease with his legs askew, brought the bat down sharply to defend. Sri Lanka appealed for leg before, umpire Billy Doctrove understandably turned them down. Gradually, the review began to show that the ball had indeed glanced Pietersen's pad before he could bring his bat into play. It was close but it was clear. It was equally clear that the ball was going on from there to hit middle and off stumps. He had to go. But without showing any indication of disagreement he took his time.
Sri Lanka's options for the rest of the summer are not especially attractive. Their attack will struggle to take 20 wickets, which might have accounted for their captain Tillekeratne Dilshan's overt relief when he bowled Trott, trying to cut a straight one (what has got into him?), towards the end. It was also a heartening sight to watch Dilshan dash over to shake Trott's hand as he shuffled off.
KP's 19 test KO's to left-arm spin
2008 v New Zealand (Hamilton) c and b Vettori 42
2008 v NZ (Napier) c Taylor b Vettori 34
2008 v NZ (Lord's) lbw Vettori 3
2008 v NZ (Old Trafford) c Taylor b Vettori 26
2008 v South Africa (Edgbaston) c de Villiers b Harris 94
2008 v SA (The Oval) c McKenzie b Harris 13
2009 v India (Chennai) lbw Yuvraj Singh 1
2009 v West Indies (Jamaica) c Ramdin b Benn 97
2009 v WI (Antigua) c Ramdin b Benn 32
2009 v WI (Trinidad) b R Hinds 10
2009 v WI (Chester-le-Street) c Simmons b Benn 49
2009 v SA (Durban) lbw Harris 31
2010 v Bangladesh (Chittagong) b Abdur Razzak 99
2010 v Bangladesh (Chittagong) lbw Shakib Al Hasan 32
2010 v Bangladesh (Dhaka) c Imrul Kayes b Shakib al Hasan 45
2010 v Bangladesh (Lord's) b Shakib al Hasan 18
2010 v Bangladesh (Old Trafford) st Mushfiqur Rahim b Shakjib al Hasan 64
2010 v Australia (Adelaide) c Katich b Doherty 227
2011 v Sri Lanka (Cardiff) lbw b Herath 3
Sophia Gardens scoreboard
First test, Cardiff (Third and Fourth days of five): England are leading Sri Lanka by 91 runs with five first-innings wickets in hand
Sri Lanka won toss
SRI LANKA First Innings 400 (H A P W Jayawardene 112, Paranavitana 66, Samaraweera 58, Dilshan 50)
ENGLAND First Innings (Friday Overnight 47-1)
A N Cook c H A P W Jayawardene b Maharoof 133
274 balls 0 sixes 10 fours
J M Anderson c D P M D Jayawardene b Mendis 1
16 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
I J L Trott b Dilshan 203
409 balls 0 sixes 17 fours
K P Pietersen lbw b Herath 3
11 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
I R Bell not out 98
152 balls 1 six 10 fours
E J G Morgan not out 14
14 balls 0 sixes 2 fours
Extras (b10 lb4 nb5) 19
Total (for 5, 153 overs) 491
Fall: 1-46, 2-47, 3-298, 4-305, 5-465.
To bat: †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, C T Tremlett.
Bowling: R A S Lakmal 22-4-68-1 (1nb) (5-2-7-0, 8-2-16-1, 3-0-12-0, 1-0-4-0, 2-0-15-0, 3-0-14-0), N L T C Perera 23-5-77-0 (3-0-14-0, 3-1-5-0, 5-0-22-0, 3-0-12-0, 8-4-17-0, 1-0-7-0), T M Dilshan 16-1-60-1 (2-0-9-0, 5-0-14-0, 1-0-4-0, 1-1-0-0, 7-1-33-1), M F Maharoof 27-3-91-1 (3nb) (4-1-5-0, 4-0-24-0, 4-0-9-0, 2-0-12-0, 1-0-6-0,
12-2-35-1), B A W Mendis 21-4-66-1 (1nb) (8-3-8-1, 7-1-17-0, 1-0-5-0, 2-0-13-0, 2-0-12-0, 1-0-11-0), H M R K B Herath 44-7-115-1 (8-0-27-0, 7-1-20-0, 21-4-49-1, 8-2-19-0).
Progress: Third day: 100 in 42.4 overs. Tea: 148-2 in 52 overs (Cook 71, Trott 49), 150 in 52.3 overs, 200 in 71.4 overs, 250 in 81.5 overs. Saturday cose: 287-2 (Cook 129, Trott 125). Fourth day: 300 in 98.3 overs, Tea: 344-4 in 113.0 overs (Trott 147, Bell 28), 350 in 114.5 overs, 400 in 133.2 overs, 450 in 142.4 overs, Sunday close: 491-5 (Bell 98, Morgan 14). Cook: 50 off 112 balls (4 fours). 100 off 224 balls (8 fours). Trott: 50 off 102 balls (4 fours). 100 off 196 balls (8 fours). 150 off 303 balls (13 fours). 200 off 398 balls (17 fours). Bell: 50 off 88 balls (6 fours, 1 six).
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and B R Doctrove (WI).
TV umpire: R J Tucker (Aus).
Match referee: J Srinath (Ind).Reuse content