Pietersen's battle to find form hampered by bad weather
Anderson and Sidebottom injuries clear up but England look undercooked for Tests
Tuesday 08 December 2009
Murky drizzle, which burgeoned into a fully fledged sea fret that would do Redcar proud, curtailed England's Test preparations yesterday. It is beginning to get serious. The players in this touring party need practice and quickly.
There was no outdoor netting yesterday and the forecast suggests there may be none today. The only brightness around was the apparent injury clear-up rate, with Jimmy Anderson reporting that his right knee was causing no trouble after a third injection and Ryan Sidebottom reporting no discomfort from his strained side.
The significance of the two two-day games at the end of this week is now heightened but they were always on the downside of minimal for being sufficient to take on South Africa. When England toured South Africa 45 years ago, they played seven first-class matches before the first Test.
Even as recently as 1995-96, England played three four-day matches before the Test series.
Whatever happens for the rest of this week, the tourists will be undercooked when the first Test begins next week. This will be truer of Kevin Pietersen than any other member of the party. Pietersen is still on the comeback trail following Achilles surgery and his five limited-overs innings so far on this trip have demonstrated his shortage of cricket. "It's going to take time," he said as he was being deprived of another day's valuable training. "I realise it's not a case of turning up and starting where I left off.
"I have hit hundreds of balls and feel in good nick. If it doesn't happen I'll just have to draw on my experience and the cricket I have played. I am working harder and harder to get back a little more quickly but these things take time." Batting at any level is probably like riding a bike. If you can do it, you can do it but it can be a bit wobbly if you have not done it for six months. And Pietersen, more or less, is being asked to get back in the saddle and ride the Tour de France immediately.
"It's the pace of the game which is the difference," he said. "I came in from not playing to facing Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn at 150kph [93mph]. From being on a drip for two days in hospital and lying on my couch for two months, coming under fire from a fast South African attack is quite difficult."
Pietersen might also have experienced difficulties with the crowds who have tended to give him the bird. They have neither forgotten that he is South African by birth and upbringing nor forgiven that he should have thrown in his lot with England.
"I actually enjoy it, I find it funny," he said. "Nothing will be as bad as five years ago when I went out at the Wanderers. I've had an OK career so far and the crowd just want to rile you so you don't stay too long at the crease.
"No matter what words are thrown at me all I'm thinking of is that little red ball. The public have been fantastic, even in bars where people might have been intoxicated there has been no problem. I haven't had a confrontation with anybody in South Africa since I've been here." But he needs to confront some bowling and soon.
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