Pietersen puts on display of brutal majesty

Hampshire 375-6 v Glamorgan
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The Independent Online

When Shane Warne turned up in April for his first press conference of the season he promised Hampshire would play "positive, entertaining cricket".

When Shane Warne turned up in April for his first press conference of the season he promised Hampshire would play "positive, entertaining cricket".

"We will do anything and risk losing to give ourselves the best chance of winning matches," he continued. From him, the flamboyant leggie, these statements sounded true rather than hollow rhetoric but it must help when he has players like Kevin Pietersen around.

Despite his poor start to the season, Pietersen, self-confident and aggressive, has continued to attack at every opportunity and to hit the ball as hard as he can. How the Hampshire fans must be grateful he has.

With rain, sometimes pouring rain, delaying play till 3.25pm Hampshire needed quick runs to build upon the good work of Friday. Pietersen understands quick runs and while John Crawley continued sedately, Pietersen thrashed and smashed his way to a 99-ball century - his second in succession. Apart from the entertainment, it has given his team a good opportunity to force a third Championship win out of five matches.

Such runs, game-changing runs, are highly prized and are going to be a recurring theme of Pietersen's career. He scores quickly and effectively. This is not to belittle Crawley's efforts. His runs were crucial on Friday, both before and in partnership with Pietersen and where the latter hits hard, Crawley strokes. His century was his first in four seasons at the Rose Bowl and received rapturous applause from the other players on the balcony. It is testament to the atmosphere in the club that his less eye-catching shots were cheered as loudly as Pietersen's thunderbolts.

He was dismissed just six runs after his century by Simon Jones, one of two successes for the England bowler who got fewer of his 29 overs in the favoured area than he might have liked.

Team spirit is a much used, oft abused phrase but one that Hampshire, under the guidance of their manager, Paul Terry, and Warne, appear to have. It can be a demanding mistress but their ethos is that not only are the players and coaching staff meant to "work together to a united goal", but also everyone else involved in the actual cricket.

On wet days like Friday and sodden ones like yesterday that pointedly means the ground staff. A disenchanted or disenfranchised ground staff would labour with the covers, but not the impressive Hampshire team. Like worker ants they took formation around the covers and mopped, squelched and heaved to great effect. It would have been to no avail of course if the sun had not appeared with a strong, moisture-lifting breeze but their industry and purpose cannot be faulted.

Partly, this is because they consider themselves more valued than before - the head groundsman is invited into the dressing room now as part of the team - and also because the players have a collective policy of not moaning about or blaming the wicket.

The Rose Bowl is a splendid venue but the pitch is often unreliable. In April the management stated that grumblings about the surface would not be tolerated.

For this particular match it helped that the pitch was one of a newer section and the middle was left well-grassed so as to prevent it breaking up and crumbling too quickly while the ends were shaved. Having the best leg-spinner in the world might have had something to do with that as well but when play did start, the pitch behaved acceptably. Glamorgan's lament is that from their point of view Pietersen did not and Warne now has two days to conjure a result.

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