Pietersen performs on a level second to none
Cricket:Kevin Pietersen wrote a new chapter in English cricket history alongside Alastair Cook, as England closed in on a series-levelling victory after day three of the second Test against India. Pietersen (186) and Cook (122) moved level on 22 hundreds with all-time greats in Wally Hammond, Geoff Boycott and Colin Cowdrey as England’s most prolific Test centurions. After their stand of 206 was broken when Cook edged an off-break from Ravichandran Ashwin to slip, much work remained to be done by England at the Wankhede Stadium.
But Pietersen was far from done with. He helped to earn a lead of 86, and Monty Panesar (five for 61) then took his match haul to 10 wickets with the prize scalps of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
Graeme Swann also repeated his new party trick to see off Cheteshwar Pujara for the second time in five balls, after the number three had previously batted almost 18 hours in this series without being dismissed, as India barely struggled back in front on a hapless 117 for seven.
Pietersen has drawn contrasting superlatives during eventful year in his mercurial career – and there will be many more of the complimentary variety after an innings in which, Cook apart, he played on a different level to all around him. He carried England to 413 all out, despite the best efforts of Pragyan Ojha (five for 143) in conditions so conducive to his left-arm spin and a late clatter of four wickets for seven runs in 13 balls. Pietersen’s first Test hundred since his summer of discontent and subsequent “reintegration” came at a pivotal point, as the tourists seek to overturn a 27-year pattern by winning a series in India.
Cook’s second successive hundred following his rearguard 176 in last week’s defeat at Ahmedabad was a very significant contribution. Out on his own with his fourth century in his first four Tests as captain after his two while standing in for Andrew Strauss in Bangladesh 2½ years ago, he reached three figures with a drive off Harbhajan Singh for his 11th four.
Five minutes after Cook completed his century, Pietersen did likewise, from only 127 balls, with an impudent reverse-sweep just wide of slip off Harbhajan for his 15th four. When Cook finally departed, Pietersen jogged 30 yards down the wicket to lend his personal acknowledgment as the captain made his way off the pitch.
Controversially, new batsman Jonny Bairstow could not survive the morning, poking a catch to silly-point off Ojha. He walked straight off, apparently oblivious to the fact Gautam Gambhir had completed the sharp catch via the bottom of his helmet grille – or that such impact should have meant dead ball. The lunch break provided England with the chance to make representations on the matter to the umpires, and India, but to no avail, and it was Samit Patel who emerged with Pietersen for the afternoon. Pietersen treated Ojha with near disdain, hitting him for three of his four sixes, the first of two slog-sweeps to go to 150 and draw England level and another crashed over extra-cover.
Patel provided manful support until he pushed forward instead to Ojha and edged sharp turn and bounce to gully. Pietersen was to fall short of a fourth Test double-century, a flat-bat shot at Ojha resulting in a tame edge behind, and Matt Prior was run out after a mix-up over an aborted single to kickstart England’s collapse to spin.
Their lead was perhaps not as significant as it should have been. But it looked ample by stumps after Sehwag had been caught at gully, Pujara and Yuvraj Singh at short-leg, Virat Kohli off a Swann full-toss at mid-off, Mahendra Singh Dhoni at slip and Ashwin at cover. In a near binary scorecard apart from opener Gambhir’s unbeaten 53, Tendulkar went for eight again, lbw to an arm ball this time, in what may well prove a forgettable final Test innings on his home ground.