Pietersen's relief as the old swagger comes back

England batsman confident for second Test after signs of recovery in Chittagong
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The Independent Online

All the England cricketers who came on this tour will remember Bangladesh. It is not a place – in many ways at least – that easily leaves the system. None, except perhaps Steve Finn who made one of the more unexpected recent debuts, will recall it more fondly down the years than Kevin Pietersen.

Although he may not exactly be dashing back each year to see new-found friends with his new family, it is here that Pietersen has found himself as a batsman once more. This is the place where he discovered that his rich talent did not mysteriously vanish on the operating table last July as, paradoxically, his Achilles heel was being mended.

The runs that Pietersen scored in the first Test in Chittagong, which England won by 181 runs, have amended his outlook dramatically. It was not simply the 99 in the first innings – vigilant, cautious, plainly orthodox – but the quick-fire 32 in the second when the KP of yore, albeit briefly, returned.

"I don't want to jinx it by saying I'm feeling great and then get nothing this week but I honestly do feel really good about my game at the moment," he said yesterday. "It's a nice place to be compared to where I was 10 days ago. I have made some technical alterations and I'm hitting a lot of the areas I used to hit, mid-wicket off the spinner and hitting over the top and stuff."

Pietersen's struggles in the first part of England's visit here, following his indifferent form on the tour of South Africa, made it possible to fear for his future. Whatever he says he is not yet the batsman he was. Batsmen are not like salesmen and the only convincer they can produce is hundreds.

But to England's enormous relief he is on his way and the second Test which starts at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium tomorrow will produce anticipation in the tourists' best batsman rather than apprehension. England will expect to win the match sometime on Wednesday at the latest and it may be earlier if the surface on which it is played represents a cricket pitch rather than a planet where there is no sign of life.

It was the usual pleasure to hear Pietersen talking again yesterday because he has not done much of it lately. But he was ebullient enough to remind his audience that Test cricket is still facing difficulties from which it may not emerge.

Pietersen castigated the track on which the first Test in Chittagong was played. It was bland, slow and became better, not worse for batting, which is not the idea at all. If this was a slightly rum stance, since it much improved his chances of scoring some runs again after a sequence which yielded 69 in seven innings, it was also valid.

Many more surfaces like at the Divisional Stadium – and there are already too many like it – and Test cricket will merely repel audiences further. The Indian Premier League is taking place at present and, for all its obvious gaudy shortcomings, its virtue compared to a five-day match played out on a piece of anodyne turf is limitless to modern spectators.

"Everyone is talking about Test cricket and where it's going to be in five years," Pietersen said. "I certainly don't think conditions like that are conducive to people watching. On day five of a Test match you expect some spin, you expect something in the wicket on days three, four, five in terms of keeping people watching and entertained.

"I love cricket, I love Test match cricket. but people are negatively talking about it now. If we played India on a wicket like that 700 would play 700 would play 100 for 1. It's not good for Test-match cricket. I want Test-match cricket to survive as long as possible because it tests every individual and it toughens people up. I mentioned after our series in the West Indies last year that in order for Test-match cricket to continue being the Noz1 game, groundsman have a huge part to play."

It should perhaps be recorded that when Pietersen finishes here next week, he is heading to India and the IPL for four weeks where he will earn in the region of $1m (£654,000).

The authorities, while they are about it, might like to conduct some investigations into the quality of the ball as well. The Kookaburra variety used in all Test matches outside England simply does not retain its hardness. Everything is geared to batsmen; as it will be tomorrow – though not so much that Bangladesh can avoid defeat for the first time against England. Without giving much away yesterday, captain Alastair Cook implied the tourists' side would again have six batsmen and four bowlers.

Cook has acquitted himself well in the past six weeks and spoke well yesterday about the need for England to play hard but not overstep the mark. It is easy to tell they are ready for home – and why not – but they look ready to win by a country mile.

Second Test: Match details

Probable teams

Bangladesh Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Aftab Ahmed, Mummudullah, Shakib-ul-Hasan (capt), Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Naeem Islam, Abdur Razzaq, Shahdadat Hossain, Rubel Hossain.

England A N Cook (capt), M A Carberry, J I L Trott, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, I R Bell, M J Prior (wk), T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn.

Umpires: R J Tucker (Aus) & A L Hill (NZ).

Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).

TV details

Sky Sports 2, from 3am Saturday

Pitch report

Grass clippings covering the surface yesterday obscured its nature. But it can be expected to be lower and slower than for last week's First Test in Chittagong, possibly causing tedium on an unprecedented scale.


Hot and sunny. Maximum temp: 35C