Second Test, Adelaide
Day 2 Comment
It is not often that you’re able to compare Ashley Giles to Shane Warne but such was Pietersen’s complete technical dominance over his Hampshire team mate that Warne was reduced to bowling the negative, hopeless around-the-wicket line that made our very own King of Spain famous.
We must remember that this pitch is painfully slow and offers absolutely nothing to bowlers of any creed. Indeed New Zealand legend Martin Crowe once remarked on the three certainties of life - death, taxes and hundreds at the Adelaide Oval. But the nature of the hundreds scored by Collingwood and Pietersen was astounding. Whilst yesterday England seemed content on survival, today they took the game to the heart of Australian bowling – McGrath and Warne and left them battered, bruised and with one wicket for 274 between them. Their worst ever return.
McGrath in particular looked a spent figure, at Brisbane he was flattered by England’s woeful batting but on this pitch he never looked like taking a wicket and was treated with disdain by Pietersen who waltzed down the track to smack him through the leg-side on numerous occasions. As more question marks over McGrath’s fitness presented themselves, so did the perceived weakness of Ponting’s captaincy. Some of his ultra defensive field settings were shocking as England merrily collected runs under no pressure whatsoever.
Duncan Fletcher has remarked that Pietersen is one of the smartest cricketers he has ever come across. A quick interview with Kevin will illustrate that it is his cricketing brain that Fletcher is referring to but the way in which he dealt with the ‘Shane Giles’ negative approach was superb. For a player so exuberant and in such fluent form it was not easy to kick the ball away over after over but he kept his head and with the aid of some stunning footwork and balance was able to hit Warne against the spin through mid on, whenever Warne’s negative line erred slightly. It was his best test innings by a distance, and one of the best displays of tackling leg-spin that you will ever see.
Australia may have regretted playing four bowlers on the best batting wicket in the country, especially after the England bowlers could only muster up 9 wickets for 804 in Brisbane. But England, may well rue the similarly conservative selection of Ashley Giles. For them to take 20 wickets and win this match would be a remarkable effort, for greater then the brilliant batting display – and Panesar’s presence would have helped.
What followed was England’s best passage of play this series, giving themselves nine overs at the back end of the day to have a go at the Aussies. It is not easy coming out to bat after 168 overs in the field and England took full advantage. They were aggressive, lively and right up at Australia. Flintoff crucially took the new ball and got the reward of Justin Langer caught off a rising delivery. When at his best, our captain is one of world’s premier fast bowlers and if England are to square the series here in Adelaide, his performance will be the difference.