One of the boys: KP mucks in as 'team player' on England return
23:43 GMT, 30 October 2012
If Kevin Pietersen was told to keep his head down as he reintegrates himself into international cricket, then he played the role to perfection in his first game for England since all hell broke loose in the summer.
When Pietersen walked out with his team-mates on Tuesday at Mumbai’s picturesque Brabourne Stadium, it was the first time in 85 days he had worn the colours of his adopted country. There may have been times when he wondered whether this day would arrive at all.
Such has been his dominance of cricket’s agenda during his period of exile that his unmitigated failure to grab the headlines here almost counted as a story in itself.
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Comeback: Kevin Pietersen (right) returned for England in Mumbai on Tuesday
Click here for the full scorecard from Mumbai
Pietersen held a simple catch in the gully as England’s bowlers began brightly against India A, and later — as the batsmen fought back — bowled a single over of off-spin, which cost seven and merely paved the way for Jimmy Anderson to take the second new ball. This felt symbolic. Pietersen was here to help.
In between, he chatted amicably during a drinks break with Ian Bell and Graeme Swann, and generally went about his business as if the BlackBerry texts furore had never happened — mucking in, geeing up and throwing himself around like the new boy.
That is precisely how England, with their emphasis on team unity, hope it remains.
All smiles: Pietersen looked to be enjoying his return to the side
The balance, though, will inevitably be a delicate one. In an interview with this month’s Cricketer magazine, Anderson joked about ‘there being two cliques in the England dressing room: one with 10 in, the other with one’.
And although team director Andy Flower insisted on Monday that he did not regard this tour as Pietersen’s last chance as an England player, there is little doubt he will be watched closely in the weeks ahead.
For now, the players are determined to pull together. ‘It’s pretty much business as usual,’ said Tim Bresnan, who claimed three wickets as India A closed the first day of their three-day match on 369 for nine.
‘He’s the same old Kev, with the energy in the field that he showed all day. He’s just Kev. It’s been good.
It's good to be back: Pietersen should get a chance to bat on Wednesday
‘I don’t suppose you’d be able to see from the outside looking in that it’s anything other than normal. But I’m pretty sure most of the lads in the dressing room were expecting it to be like that.
‘Everyone in the know has sat down and spoken about it, but for the rest of the boys it’s nothing different from having any player come back into the squad who’s been missing for a while.’
It was a brave attempt by Bresnan to put an ordinary gloss on an extraordinary situation, and England will expect to field questions about the KP situation until they fly home for Christmas.
But on Tuesday, Pietersen looked just like one of the boys as England tried to limit India’s Test hopefuls to a manageable total on the kind of slow track that will keep Alastair Cook’s seamers honest in the weeks ahead.
Good morning: Bresnan starred for England with a wicket and a run out
They were not helped by the early loss of Steven Finn to a thigh niggle, but Bresnan ran out opener Murali Vijay off his own bowling, then had Ajinkya Rahane caught by Pietersen in the gully off one that bounced more than the batsman expected.
Bresnan ought to have had Yuvraj Singh — making his own way back into international cricket after fighting off a rare form of cancer — caught first ball, but Samit Patel missed a low chance at square leg.
Yuvraj proceeded to play with the freedom that could earn him India’s No 6 spot in next month’s first Test at Ahmedabad before he was stumped for 59 off the persevering Swann. And it was left to Manoj Tiwary to continue India A’s fightback with a classy 93 that ended when a Bresnan yorker sent his off stump flying.
Concern: Finn pulled up with a thigh injury
Tiwary later admitted he draws inspiration from watching YouTube videos, with special mention for British 400metres runner Derek Redmond’s efforts at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, when he hobbled round the track with a torn hamstring.
On this evidence, Tiwary could push Yuvraj for the last spot in India’s top six. England will hope he does not spend next year watching re-runs of Test hundreds at their expense.
VIDEO: Cook says the team are putting the Pietersen controversy behind them…