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Kevin Pietersen, an upfront and destructive force in the World Cup

ANALYST
Feature
354   //    29 May 2019, 19:33 IST

Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen

Dashing and innovative, talented but temperamental, Kevin Pietersen could turn the tide with the bat at any time. He got into trouble with the authorities but was quick to correct course.

Almost as intimidating to bowlers as Vivian Richards, Pietersen was not afraid of advancing down the wicket to bowlers of all hues. His premature exit from the ICC World Cup and the international arena was like putting down a thriller before the finale.

He top-scored in his World Cup debut in 2007, but it turned into a bitter-sweet experience as New Zealand cantered to an easy four-wicket win. Pietersen was in early as two quick wickets fell, and soon after it was 52 for three. He resurrected the innings along with Paul Collingwood, hitting a massive six off Jeetan Patel over long-on on the way to his half-century in 73 balls.

Collingwood fell for 31 after a partnership of 81 in 19.3 overs. Pietersen holed out to long-on off Shane Bond in the very next over. His 60 had come off 93 deliveries and contained 4 boundaries in addition to the six.

England could manage just 209 for seven, which the Kiwis overhauled in 41 overs.        

Canada put up some resistance in the next match, and Pietersen himself was dismissed for 5. England pulled off a 51-run win.

Despite a fine 76 by their star Steve Tikolo, Kenya could post only 177. Pietersen joined Ed Joyce at 52 for two after 8.4 overs, and the pair took the side to the threshold of victory.

Pietersen was in wonderful touch since his first delivery, which he drove to the long-off boundary. He walloped Hiren Varaiya over mid-wicket for a six. He soon raised his half-century off 54 deliveries, and the hundred of the partnership came up immediately thereafter in 19.1 overs.

At the same score Joyce was bowled by Tikolo for 75. With Collingwood joining in, the formalities were completed seamlessly. Pietersen was unbeaten with 56 in 72 balls, dotted with 5 fours and that six.

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The 6 feet 7 inch tall Irish seamer Boyd Rankin caused a flutter in the super-eight, dismissing the openers cheaply. Pietersen repaired the damage along with Ian Bell. He welcomed the captain Trent Johnson by taking 14 runs off his first over, including three powerful off-side boundaries.

Bell was dismissed for a 74-ball 31, the pair having put on 66 in 16 overs. Looking for his fifty, Pietersen advanced down the wicket, only to smack the ball into the hands of the mid-on fielder. He had scored 48 off 47 balls, with 5 fours.

England put up 266 for seven, Collingwood going on to score 90 before being run out. Ireland were dismissed for 218.

In the thriller at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Sri Lanka totaled 235. Again the pacers captured two wickets in a hurry, and Pietersen found himself partnering Bell once more, this time at 11 for two. 

The boundaries started coming soon and then Pietersen slammed Chaminda Vaas straight over his head for a six. The half-century of the partnership came up in 51 deliveries.

The spinners pegged back the scoring-rate. Pietersen then drove straight, the ball hitting the stumps after flicking the bowler Jayasuriya’s fingers on the way. After several replays the third umpire ruled that Bell was just out of the crease, ending the 90-run stand in an unfortunate manner. They had been together for 20 overs.

Pietersen got to his half-century in 74 balls. He tried to break the shackles with two boundaries, but got a leading edge to the peerless Muralitharan who took the catch himself. Pietersen’s hard-earned 58 had spanned 80 deliveries and was dotted with 5 boundaries and a six.

Ravi Bopara and wicketkeeper Paul Nixon put up a tremendous partnership of 87 for the seventh wicket in 15.2 overs, but the quicker bowlers returned to dismiss both, and England were beaten by 2 runs.

In a re-run of earlier English innings, speedster Shaun Tait ripped out two wickets quickly. Again Pietersen settled into a fine partnership with Bell, who was now opening the innings.

They matched each other stroke-for-stroke, with Bell first hitting Glenn McGrath splendidly on the off-side for 3 fours in an over. In the next over from Michael Clarke, Pietersen jumped out of the crease and in typical fashion smashed him to the long-on boundary, before sending the next ball sailing over mid-wicket for a huge six.

The fifty of the stand was raised in 55 deliveries. They reached their half-centuries within 2 balls of each other, Pietersen in 49 deliveries and Bell off 69. The hundred partnership was raised in 17.4 overs.

Bell opened up with a spate of boundaries but McGrath had him caught in the covers for 77. The stand was worth 140 by then, realized in 23.3 overs.

After two more wickets fell in quick succession, Pietersen found another ally in Bopara. They put on 51 for the sixth wicket in just under 15 overs.

Pietersen carried on to his hundred off 117 balls. He holed out trying to raise the tempo, his 104 coming from 122 deliveries and studded with 6 boundaries and a six.

England were bowled out for 247 with a delivery remaining. The Aussies motored on, with all their batsmen getting runs, bringing up victory by seven wickets in the 48th over. 

In the low-scoring game versus Bangladesh, Pietersen was dismissed for 10, with England ending up victorious by four wickets. He scored just 3 as the South Africans trounced them by nine wickets.

With neither England nor the West Indies in a position to qualify for the semi-finals, the last super-eight fixture at Bridgetown turned out to be Brian Lara’s farewell. The maestro himself was run out for 18 but it was a thrilling match right to the end, West Indies piling up 300 in 49.5 overs.

Pietersen this time walked to the crease with the hundred already up in 15.3 overs. He was quickly into his stride, the half-century stand in association with skipper Michael Vaughan coming up in 56 deliveries.

Vaughan was soon run out for a fine 79 scored off 68 balls with 6 fours and 2 sixes. That was a signal for a steady fall of wickets until Pietersen found an able ally in Nixon.

With six wickets gone, the asking-rate was now 8 runs per over. Pietersen first secured his half-century off 60 deliveries. Well-run singles and twos were interspersed with boundary hits, two of which by Pietersen came off consecutive deliveries from Jerome Taylor.

There were 38 runs needed with 4 overs to go, and Pietersen was on 94. He launched the first ball from Taylor over long-on for a six out of the ground. His hundred had come in 90 deliveries.

He tried to mete the same treatment to the next ball, a replacement one, but it eluded his swing and crashed into the leg-stick. Besides his six, Pietersen had struck 10 boundaries.

Another wicket fell in the over, with 17 runs coming off the next, of which Nixon smashed 3 boundaries. Just 12 runs were required off 12 balls, then 8 in the penultimate over, with Nixon hitting another four.

A single came off the first delivery of the final over from Dwayne Bravo. The second was a slower one which foxed Nixon and disturbed the off-stump.

A leg-bye was scrambled off the third, and the fourth was a dot ball. Amid mounting tension, Stuart Broad hit the fifth ball over cover and ran two. England had eked out a one-wicket win with 1 ball to spare.

Pietersen was the man-of-the-match, and it was time for Lara and the two teams to depart.                      

Pietersen was one of the bright spots in a disappointing English campaign. With an aggregate of 444 in 9 matches, an average of 55.50 and strike-rate of 81.02, including 2 centuries and 3 half-centuries, it was a stellar performance by a player who was ranked as the No. 1 batsman by the ICC at the time.

He began the 2011 campaign well but had to return home after four matches due to a hernia problem, and was replaced by Eoin Morgan.

Ryan ten Doeschate’s superb 119 inspired the qualifiers from the Netherlands to a very challenging 292 for six. With Pietersen now opening the batting with skipper Andrew Strauss, they provided an auspicious start with a century stand.

Strauss struck Mudassar Bukhari for 3 fours in the first over. Pietersen responded with 3 boundaries in three overs. After 11 overs they were even with 5 boundaries each. Strauss then raced ahead with 4 fours in four overs. They hoisted the hundred in 17 overs, with Strauss already past his half-century.

In the next over Pietersen tried to drive the left-arm spin of Pieter Seelaar, only to be caught in the covers. The 105-run partnership had come in 17.4 overs, Pietersen’s 39 spanning 61 deliveries. 

Strauss went on to score 88, and England won by six wickets in the 49th over. 

After Sachin Tendulkar hit a brilliant 120, Tim Bresnan’s five-wicket haul pulled India back to a total of 338 in 49.5 overs. Strauss was again in superb touch, this time striking 2 boundaries in the first over from Zaheer Khan. The next over from Munaf Patel also produced 2 fours, with the two batsmen sharing the spoils.

After a lull, the boundary boards began taking a beating again, with Pietersen dispatching Zaheer twice in an over. In the next over he bludgeoned Munaf straight back. The bowler somehow got his hand in the way and in a deft feat of jugglery finally came up with the white spheroid.

Pietersen was gone for 31, having taken only 22 balls for it and hammering 5 boundaries. Strauss scored a magnificent 158, and the match ended in a heart-stopping tie off the last delivery.

Ireland were the next opponents, and the Strauss-Pietersen firm was again in business. This time there was only one boundary from Pietersen in the first over, and two off successive deliveries in the third.

Strauss hit a four and a six of his own in the next two, and Pietersen another in the following over. The fifty was on the board in 7.5 overs. In celebration, they hit a boundary each in the next over.

Pietersen then sent a delivery from Trent Johnston into orbit over long-on for a six. More boundaries flowed from his blade as he raced to his fifty in 40 balls.

Strauss was bowled for 34 on his 34th birthday, trying to paddle the ball on the leg-side. The stand was worth 91 in just 13.3 overs.

While Jonathan Trott struck two consecutive boundaries off John Mooney, Pietersen blasted a six in the same over. Then he was gone, caught trying to reverse-sweep. His 59 had come off 50 deliveries, comprising 7 fours and 2 sixes.

Trott (92) and Bell (81) helped the total on to 327 for eight. Ireland were in trouble at 111 for five after 24.2 overs, when the red-haired giant Kevin O’Brien turned the game around with a stunning century, the fastest-ever in the World Cup by a long way, off just 50 deliveries.

O'Brien caused a huge upset with help from Alex Cusack and Mooney. Ireland were home with five balls and three wickets in hand. 

England defeated South Africa by 6 runs in another close match. For a change, Strauss was dismissed for a duck and Pietersen for 2, both by Robin Peterson. That was the end of Pietersen’s stint in the tournament.

England advanced to the quarter-finals before crashing out.  

Pietersen's exit was a big blow to England, and who knows, he might have registered those big scores that had so far eluded him in the event and carried the team further. But he played a useful and aggressive part at the top with a strike-rate of 96.32.

The dasher has a fine record in the World Cup. In Test matches or the shorter formats, or even off the field, it was hard to keep Pietersen out of the game. 

Pietersen’s World Cup batting and fielding record:

Matches 13, Highest Score 104, Runs 575, Average 47.91, Strike-rate 84.06, Hundreds 2, Fifties 4, Catches 3

Also read - Most runs for tenth wicket in world cup

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