England 474-8 declared, India 17-0 stumps
It has taken three years, but the real Kevin Pietersen finally stood up on Friday. And when he reached three figures, that monkey he’s been carrying on his back since his last century on home soil shrugged its shoulders, scratched its backside, and scurried across the outfield and into oblivion. It was a seminal moment. KP has got his mojo back.
Having said that, he looked pretty unconvincing in the first seven hours of his innings; he was walking into every shot, scratching around, and generally looking more like a cat in a litter tray than one of the great shot-makers in international cricket.
However, once Ian Bell – surely the most aesthetically pleasing batsman we’ve had since Alec Stewart – and Matt Prior – who confounded those of us who thought he’d nick one behind early – showed KP that quick scoring was possible, his run rate rocketed faster than Twitter searches for ‘Dhoni bowling’. It was electric stuff.
The other talking points of the day were Kumar’s five for, Dravid’s ‘catch’, Dhoni’s decision to have a bowl himself, and Strauss’ bizarre declaration. We’ll deal with these in sequence …
Kumar is a funny bowler. He reminds me of the killer rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. He looks cuddly and innocuous; batsmen probably want to tickle his belly. However, if you let your guard down, he’ll rip through your defences in a second.
He might bowl at about the same pace as the fat bloke that plays for your club’s third XI, but he swings the ball both ways and he’s got a bit of guile. He thoroughly deserved his wickets in the end; some of the balls he bowled were unplayable.
We’ll try not to go on about the catch that the third umpire overturned too much. Let’s just say that it was definitely, unquestionably, not out. Unless you’re one of those who think he caught it – in which case it was most certainly, without a shadow of a doubt, out.
Personally, I still reckon there was a gap between Dravid’s hands when the ball popped in; I get all the malarkey about TV cameras and foreshortening etc (normally I think these kinds of catches are out) however, on this occasion I don’t think it was. Then again, like most people, I usually see what I want to see.
Now we come to the subject of Dhoni’s bowling. He was actually pretty decent. His action reminded me a bit of Ravi Bopara. If he didn’t keep wicket, he’d probably bowl at lot more.
Of course, it comes as no surprise at all that the Indian skipper is useful with the ball. Dhoni’s a bit like David Beckham, but without the whingeing wife. Everything he touches turns to gold. Is there anything the golden-balls of Indian sport can’t do? I imagine the only thing he has trouble with is fighting off the millions of women who want to sleep with him.
Finally, I want to say a few words about Strauss’ declaration. The England skipper gets a lot of stick for being too conservative – and quite rightly sometimes. However, on this occasion he was rather adventurous. Therefore, in time honoured journalistic tradition, I’d like to give him a kicking for being imaginative too.
I just didn’t understand the decision at all. The skies were blue, so it was a good time for batting, and recent history suggests that 450 is only a par total at Lords. Furthermore, KP was scoring so quickly that we could’ve scored another 40 runs in a couple of overs (and then declared with a total over 500 without losing much time).
If the sun shines at the weekend, and India rack up 400-3 – which let’s face it is quite possible – Strauss declaration will look over-confident and rather silly. Let’s pray for some cloud cover.