After Surrey’s latest captain won the toss and asked Yorkshire to bat, it was always likely to be a quiet reintroduction to competitive cricket for Kevin Pietersen as the England batsman stepped on to the field for the first time in more than three months.
As Surrey’s bowlers failed to justify their captain’s confidence and Andrew Gale continued his rich vein of form by making his third century in as many matches for the First Division leaders, Pietersen spent much of the day fielding at mid-off. He bowled four overs of his off-spin just before tea and made a game attempt to take what would have been a fine catch when Gale, on 95, had a rare rush of blood. Otherwise, all was quiet.
He made more of a stir off the field. In an interview with his former England colleague, Darren Gough, on Talksport, Pietersen admitted his regrets over his decision to retire from international one-day cricket last summer, from which he later backed down essentially to save his England career, but at the same time agreed with Gough that his injury tended to support his original position.
Gough said: “Only last year you were talking about looking after your body; you don’t want to get injured playing all forms of the game. You went back on that, and ended up playing all forms of the game and got injured. So it highlighted what you were saying, that at some point every individual’s body is going to break down.”
“Exactly,” Pietersen responded. “You can feel it as a player. I probably didn’t go about it in the best fashion. You make mistakes, and you get over them, and that’s the way you grow as a human being, by learning from things that you don’t do well. So I take it on the chin, no dramas, it’s just a case of looking forward and making sure that you do the right things now.”
It was not a rant, by any means, but it was a revealing comment. Had Pietersen been free (or willing) to speak during this game, which he is not, it might have been interesting to hear him expand on it.
As it was, the talking point – quite rightly – was Gale’s splendid unbeaten 114, another innings of supreme quality from a batsman who might have been exerting pressure on Pietersen’s place had the purple patch he is currently enjoying not been preceded by a lean spell of two years.
Yesterday’s brilliant performance, in which the temptation to which he succumbed against Gary Keedy’s left-arm spin that gave Pietersen his half-chance, was possibly his only error, followed 272 against Nottinghamshire and 103 against Middlesex in the Yorkshire captain’s last two innings.
Gary Ballance, who will leave this match at the halfway point to join England’s Twenty20 squad, was unlucky to fall on 90 after sharing a stand of 204 with Gale that has Yorkshire well placed and will leave Surrey, with Alec Stewart in charge for the first time following the dismissal of Chris Adams, already with much to do. Pietersen may be back but Ricky Ponting is missing with an injured hand.