The woeful form of Kevin Pietersen, who is supposed to be our best batsman (despite the fact he hasn’t looked himself since about 2008) has been one of the most discussed issues of this tour.
When I watched him in the second ODI last week he looked all at sea: his bat wasn’t coming down straight, the spinners were exploiting his penchant for planting his front leg down the crease regardless of a delivery’s line or length, and his confidence looked even lower than his recent batting average.
I really wondered whether his career was on the ropes. In fact, if we had anyone half ready for international cricket in the Lions squad, I might have been tempted to drop him for a while.
That’s why his outstanding hundred on Saturday was so exceptional. It was a total bolt from the blue.
In an interview with Sky last week, KP insisted that nothing was wrong with his game. He claimed he was in brilliant form in the nets, and it was just a matter of time before he scored a biggie.
We all scoffed. Much as I love Pietersen, it can’t be denied that he talks a load of twaddle sometimes; in the very same interview he claimed that he didn’t have a problem with left arm spin.
All the evidence pointed to another KP failure in the third ODI. Even if he survived the new ball, it surely wouldn’t be long before Saeed Ajmal made him look like a pillock again. How wrong we all were.
KP’s innings was brilliant. He seemed to benefit from a more attacking approach – and once he scored a few boundaries his old confidence returned. If only he’d found form earlier. We might have won the test series 2-1 rather than losing it 0-3.
Talking of which, England’s sudden return to form raises all kinds of questions. Is this team finally learning how to play spin? Are we improving in subcontinent style conditions? Where has our recent swagger come from? What would happen if we played Pakistan in another test series starting tomorrow?
My suspicion is that England would do a lot better if there was a fourth test match after the ODI and T20 series. I don’t think we’d dominate in the same way that we’ve bossed the one day series, but I really think we’d win.
People forget that we only needed an extra 50 runs per innings in each test match and we probably would have won. Recent form suggests that our batsmen are now better placed to score that handful of extra runs. Our bowling takes care of itself – Broad and Anderson have had the wood over the Pakistani batsmen throughout this tour.
So who or what do we blame for the test series debacle? I think the preparation was certainly lacking. Indeed, Andy Flower has admitted as much.
This ODI series suggests that our batsmen have finally adapted. They’re certainly choosing the right balls to hit now – and finding that elusive balance between attack and defence.
The problem is, what else could we have done in terms of preparation? Pakistan will always enjoy a huge advantage over visiting teams when they play in the UAE. The wickets are unique, and there are no first class teams to offer serious opposition in the warm up matches. Is it any coincidence that Pakistan’s recent good run has coincided with their move to Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
Put it this way: what would happen if Pakistan toured Australia next week? Would they show that they’ve improved as a side and compete with the Baggy Greens – or would they get skittled for low totals and lose every match? Remember, this Pakistan team’s batting line-up is as weak as any in recent memory.
I know who my money would be on.
Given that Ajmal can only bowl 10 overs, England batsmen seem a bit happier to sit and play him out and score heavily at the other end. Gul has been poor too which removes some pressure for the openers.