Kevin Pietersen came out blazing away yesterday.
The world would expect no less. He was confident, bullish, optimistic, sanguine and considered. Having scored 107 international runs in eight innings on this tour of the UAE, Pietersen was unconcerned.
Or if he is concerned, he disguised it as beautifully as a Saeed Ajmal doosra, the very thing which has probably caused him most of the trouble for the last six weeks. That and the umpire Decision Review System which has dominated, nay intimidated, the batsmen of both sides.
After a forgettable Test series in which his top score was 32 and he was out lbw three times, Pietersen is also finding it a struggle so far in the one-day matches. England will clinch the series if they prevail in the third today after winning the first two, but Pietersen, in his new role as opener, has yet to make the expected impact.
As a general point, Pietersen had a simple explanation for his shortage of decent scores. "Because the wheel isn't turning in my favour at the moment," he said. "Of course all batsmen need to get runs. If you get 'em you get 'em, if you don't you don't, that's my philosophy now. I'm 100 per cent the wheel will turn again. You have just seen Ricky Ponting go through the worst spell ever. People totally wrote him off. But he is getting hundreds and double hundreds now."
Pietersen, however, did not avoid the main issue – that the tour has not gone according to plan. So difficult has it been and so affected has he been by DRS on slow pitches that he is changing the batting style which served him so well for so long. "I have played a lot of cricket," he said. "I have played for England since 2004, 80 Test matches, 100 and something one-day internationals. This has been very hard, it has been tough.
"I think it's been caused by conditions, the way the spinners have bowled wicket to wicket, the DRS, batters having to worry about DRS, worry about the ball hitting your pad and having to try and change their techniques to try and counter it. And the benefit of the doubt is certainly not with the batter at the moment which is quite sad."
Naturally, batsmen tend to forget that there is nothing in the laws about the benefit of the doubt being given to any party. Batsmen have always had it and now that bowlers are getting it the game has altered radically – the wheel has indeed turned.
"It's difficult because some balls spin and some balls don't spin," said Pietersen. "Only a cricketer would understand when I say I actually feel in very good form. I am just not getting the rub of the green at the moment and I am working on something."
Pietersen's front-foot method which has seen him plant size 11 and pad down the pitch has caused problems that did not exist before. The DRS has made him a prime lbw candidate and there are justifiable fears that it is too generous towards bowlers in regard to balls that might, but might not, hit the stumps. "It's definitely affected the way I used to bat, getting across and going to hit leg side," he said. "Everyone says you played Warne and Murali so well. I played Murali and Warne with my pad a lot as well. Nowadays you literally cannot get hit on the pad, it's not just me, it's an issue for all batters."
Rumours have abounded that Pietersen has tired of ODIs and would settle for Tests and Twenty20s. He continues to insist that he intends to make his place as opening batsman enduring. "I'd like it to be permanent, Andy wants it to be permanent, Cooky wants it. The next World Cup in 2015 is very much a target for me. As soon as form catches up with fitness then we'll have much better press conferences." Everyone should look forward to that.
Third ODI Details
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal (wicketkeeper), Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz.
England: A N Cook (captain), K P Pietersen, I J L Trott, R S Bopara, E J G Morgan, C Kieswetter (wicketkeeper), S R Patel, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, S T Finn.
Umpires: A Dar (Pak) and S Taufel (Aus).
TV: Sky Sports 1, HD1, 10.30am to 6.55pm (UK time).
Odds: Pakistan: 4/5 England: Evens.Reuse content