Pietersen rejects case for sweeping reform of England's batting

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The Independent Online

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, believes it is a shot that all his batsmen should be able to play. Shane Warne and Harbhajan Singh insist that they are happy to see a batsman play it. And Kevin Pietersen, whose top-edged sweep in the opening one-day international against India on Tuesday instigated England's collapse, gave his verdict on this contentious stroke yesterday.

Unsurprisingly, Pietersen was unrepentant about the stroke which caused his downfall. "I don't feel good about getting out and it is not nice knowing that I started the collapse by being caught on the deep mid-wicket boundary," he said. "But it is the first full-toss in international cricket that I have hit to a man on the boundary. What made getting out to it worse is that it is one of my favourite shots. I like slog-sweeping spinners. It is a good shot, a shot that has brought me a lot of success.

"But because of the state of the game, and the fact we lost seven wickets for 40-odd runs and lost the match, the shot becomes a massive problem. It is understandable and I have sat down since and thought, 'Why, why, why?' But if it had gone for six it would have been a different story.

"Spinners say they don't mind being swept, but they do. No spin bowler in the world likes to be swept because it messes up his line and length. When it is played well it makes life difficult for the bowler because he thinks he has bowled a good ball yet he has gone for at least one run.

"The shot frustrates a spinner and it causes him to try something different, which often results in you receiving loose balls that you can score off. It was a really productive shot for me against Shane Warne last summer. On several occasions he let go of what he thought was a good ball but it went over cow corner for six," Pietersen recalled.

The players were yesterday given a day off, which several of them spent visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra. Practice will resume today, although it is a little disconcerting to hear that England will not be training at the ground where the game is to be played. Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, is forever eulogising over Fletcher's attention to detail, yet the team's first sight of the Nahar Singh Stadium will be when they arrive at the venue an hour and a half before the match.

Tomorrow's game in Faridabad, a city 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Delhi, gives England the chance to amend Tuesday's disappointing defeat but they will need to improve in all areas if they are to avoid going 2-0 down in the seven-match series.

England's batting problems are clear to see and there is still room for improvement in the bowling. Andrew Flintoff, James Anderson, Kabir Ali and Liam Plunkett are unlikely to get a better pitch to bowl on than that used at the Kotla ground, and the inconsistent bounce it offered allowed them to get away with more than usual. Flintoff was his usual accurate self, but Anderson and Kabir were guilty of bowling too many bad balls in their opening spells.

It would be a surprise to see England alter their bowling line-up, but Owais Shah's place may come under threat from Ian Bell. Shah has scored six runs in his past two innings while Bell posted 71 in the warm-up match in Jaipur.

India will be hoping Munaf Patel has recovered from the foot injury that kept him out of the first one-dayer. R P Singh looked very hittable in Delhi and Munaf would provide the hosts with a far more threatening attack.

India (probable): R S Dravid (c), V Sehwag, G Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, M Kaif, S K Raina, I K Pathan, M S Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, M Patel.

England (probable): A Flintoff (c), A J Strauss, M J Prior, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, G O Jones, I D Blackwell, Kabir Ali, L E Plunkett, J M Anderson.

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