Classy KP and magic Monty punish India in Mumbai as England close in on victory in Second Test
14:42 GMT, 25 November 2012
This was as good as it gets, an extraordinary day’s Test cricket which must rank among the finest England have ever had on the sub-continent.
It left them, barely believably, within touching distance of one of their greatest ever victories.
At the centre of it, almost inevitably, was the man who was not even in the squad originally chosen for this tour because he had been banished into international exile by the biggest crisis to hit the England team in years.
Graham Gooch once asked Ian Botham who wrote his scripts and England’s record Test runscorer must have been tempted to pose the same question to Kevin Pietersen after his breathtaking 186 in the most demanding of conditions.
Instead the man who is now England’s batting coach and not always the greatest ally of Pietersen settled for shaking his hand in the dressing room.
There was, in truth, no real need for words anyway. Pietersen’s record-equalling 22nd Test century, which followed hot on the heels of that of Alastair Cook, did everything needed to finally draw a line under the whole sorry text message saga that blighted England’s summer.
You have to tread carefully when using the word genius in relation to Pietersen because it was the ‘KP genius’ parody Twitter account that did so much to lead him to the astonishing conclusion that ‘it is not easy being me’ in the England dressing room.
High hopes: Monty Panesar was in the wickets again on day three
But genius is the only word for what he did here.
Let’s put it into some sort of
context. Pietersen had been added to the tour party on a four-month
central-contract only after a ‘reintegration’ process that made him
sound like a criminal being eased back into civilised society.
Then he batted in such a distracted,
barely competent way against his old nemesis left-arm spin in the first
Test that it seemed he might not be worth a place anyway.
And then he goes and bats as well as
any Englishman could have possibly done in this vast, cricket-mad
country with his side seemingly heading for the eighth and most damaging
Test defeat of their annus horribilis.
It looked like Pietersen was going to
fall short of being regarded as a truly great batsman because of his
erratic form and behaviour since losing the England captaincy nearly
four years ago but that rarified status may yet be within his reach.
His average is now a tad under 50 and not too many boast that.
He has certainly made three great
Test centuries this year, in Colombo, at Headingley when he imploded and
now here at the vibrant hub of Indian cricket.
This, surely, was the best innings Pietersen has ever played.
Few expected England to come anywhere
near India’s 327 on an extreme example of the sort of alien, turning
Asian pitches that have proved their undoing both this winter and last
after they had lost what seemed like a decisive toss.
Yet they passed it for the loss of
only four wickets because of a stand of 206 between Pietersen and Cook
that could well be remembered as the partnership which reignited a
stuttering England team that had lost their way after rapidly rising to
the top of the Test world.
In normal circumstances Cook’s fourth
century in each of his first four Tests as captain, bringing him level
on the England record with Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff
Boycott, would have demanded all the attention.
Ton-derful: Pietersen reached three figures on Sunday morning
This morning it was merely the hors d’oeuvres for the sumptuous main course.
Pietersen looked in the mood when he
stroked his first ball for four on Saturday and now he took batting to a
higher level, nullifying any demons in the pitch and rendering India’s
spinners ordinary, even his first Test tormentor Pragyan Ojha.
He told his friend Shane Warne that
he had ‘unscrambled’ his brain and that he clearly had in a five-hour
long batting masterclass.
Pietersen’s century came with a
reverse-swept four devoid of any risk and his 150, which brought him
level with Hammond and Len Hutton in hitting 10 scores in excess of that
figure for England, was reached with an effortless straight six off the
now hapless Ojha.
/11/25/article-2238138-14214923000005DC-531_468x330.jpg” width=”468″ height=”330″ alt=”Captain marvel: Cook led from the front with his 22nd Test hundred” class=”blkBorder” />
Captain marvel: Cook led from the front with his 22nd Test hundred
Only when Pietersen was out, Ojha
roaring his approval at finally getting his man, did the match revert to
type, England losing their last five wickets for 31 to give them a lead
of 87 when at one stage many more seemed probable.
The mini-collapse was not without
controversy either. Andy Flower, the England team director, approached
the umpires and match referee during lunch when it became clear that the
catch which dismissed Jonny Bairstow had struck Gautam Gambhir on his
helmet grille before he pouched the chance.
Umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill, who
seem to have lost much of their judgment with the absence of the
decision review system, left the matter in the hands of India who, in
contrast to their recall of Ian Bell in the Trent Bridge run-out
incident, decided not to withdraw their appeal. No matter. This was not
the day to worry about such trifles.
Spin kings: Swann (right) and Panesar (left)
It looked as though England had let
India back into the Test by not cracking on to a lead in excess of a
hundred but what happened next was delicious in its irony.
MS Dhoni had
demanded a pitch at the Wankhede Stadium that turned from the first ball
but little did he realise that his ploy would play so spectacularly
into the large hands of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.
Seven Indian wickets tumbled to spin
for 117, giving India a lead of just 31 overnight, with Panesar taking
five of them to become the first English spinner to take 10 wickets in a
Test in India since Hedley Verity in 1934.
Who would have thought that it was in fact India’s batsmen who cannot play left-arm spin in sub-continental conditions
More importantly, it meant that
England should have levelled the series tomorrow morning unless there
was one last twist to this compelling tale.
Test cricket Bloody hell….