Kevin Pietersen rates his 73 hard-earned runs yesterday as some of the most difficult he has ever made for England. The superstar batsman had over 7,000 Test runs to his name coming into this match, but rarely has he had to battle so hard for his rewards in his England career as he did on a lifeless pitch negating most attempts at scoring shots.
From the moment he came in at 16 for two, and was immediately taken aback by a short ball from Ishant Sharma which barely beat stump height, Pietersen knew he was in for a struggle.
So it proved, but he battled through to help the tourists close day one in this final Test of four on 199 for five in 97 overs. Pietersen admits it is impossible to gauge how well or badly England have fared yet, but he does know he did his best in taxing circumstances.
Asked how hard it was to adapt, Pietersen said: “Tough... it’s the toughest wicket I’ve played Test cricket on, in terms of trying to play strokes. I think we’ve gone okay at 200 for five. But what the wicket’s going to do, I haven’t got a clue because it looks similar now to what it did when we started the day.”
He will take no satisfaction yet from today’s achievement, until it is clear how it measures up in the context of a match England need to at least draw for a famous series victory.
‘Goodness, it’s slow’
“It means absolutely nothing till the game is over. It only means something when we’ve finished the game,” he said.
“My guess is as good as anyone’s in this room as to what that wicket is going to do. I don’t know ... but goodness, it’s slow. I think the key to today was to try to bat for as long as possible, because I don't think that wicket is getting better.”
Pietersen’s efforts were augmented by those of Jonathan Trott, in their half-century stand, and then by debutant Joe Root and Matt Prior, who had put on an unbroken 60 at stumps. The first evidence of 21-year-old Root’s Test potential was encouraging.
“Joe was brilliant,” said Pietersen. “He’s his own man; he played some lovely cricket shots and has a good head on his shoulders. Never judge anybody after a couple of hours batting for England, but he’s shown signs of what could be a very good Test career. He didn’t need too much help. He came in there, and was scoring freely.
“He’s a good little player and a lovely man as well. He’s a good human being.”
Pietersen found it especially tough going against Ishant, responsible for those two early wickets, and is hoping England may have the edge on India with their two frontline seamers to the hosts’ one in this match.
“Ishant, I found incredibly difficult to play today. All I know is that scoring was incredibly hard, especially against Ishant — so we hope ‘Bressie’ (Tim Bresnan) and Jimmy (Anderson) can do us a really good job.”
Pietersen sympathised with spectators who could have taken little pleasure from watching batsmen chisel out their runs on a pitch hardly devised for entertainment value. It was anything but pretty, but may yet turn out to be as well as England could have done.
“When you’re the tourists, obviously the Indians think that’s the kind of wicket they can produce to pull the series back,” he said. “We’ve had some incredible challenges over the last two or three years. The viewers might have switched off four or five hours ago... but it’s an incredible challenge for the lads over the next four days.”