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Australia has edge despite Pietersen ton

England ends third day on 294/7, still 233 runs off Australia’s first-innings total

Australia has edge despite Pietersen ton
 - Cricket News
Kevin Pietersen got England back into the game, with a resilient century.
Talent can be a difficult thing to control and relate to, particularly if the person in possession of that talent is Kevin Pietersen – and even if you happen to be Kevin Pietersen. But talent is almost always worth the trouble, and there can no longer be anyone in the England dressing room that does not consider Pietersen to be worth the trouble. When he marched to the middle, England was tottering at 64 for 3, and when he left, the score had advanced to 280, his contribution 113. By the end of yet another compelling day – the third day of the third Test on Saturday (August 3), England had reached 294 for 7 and was 28 runs away from avoiding the follow-on, a significant step in its bid to retain the Ashes.
So often accused of showmanship by those who pay or are paid to watch a show, this Pietersen innings was no such thing, restrained and refined – and also reprieved. Australia decided against reviewing a not out decision, given after Shane Watson rapped him on the pad in front of the stumps, when he had scored 62.
That Pietersen had no choice but to bat as he did is testament to the excellence of Watson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris. From the very start of the day, they settled into yesterday’s groove as though they’d spent all night there, Harris muscling in at decent pace and also finding some reverse swing. Both Siddle and Harris crowded Jonathan Trott, preventing him from scoring in his favourite area with two short midwickets. Bat not coming down straight, Trott never looked relaxed, particularly disconcerting for a man so obsessed with technique.
At the other end, Alastair Cook was comfortable enough. A clip to midwicket and a luscious cover drive brought him early-morning boundaries, but in the main, he was content to nurdle along; is anyone ever more content than Cook nurdling along?
But Trott was soon gone. When Harris moved one into him off the seam, he first followed, then tried to evade – by which time it was too late, the ball homing in against his bat and low into the hands of Michael Clarke at second slip. Out for only five, his series average stands at just 22.2.
This brought Pietersen to the crease, his pathological aversion to being on zero tempting him into waving the bat at a very wide first ball. Then another false shot squirted to midwicket, after which he only just managed to repel an inswinging yorker.
A push down the ground and an obliging misfield brought up Cook’s half-century, while Pietersen gradually fumbled his way into the game. His first boundary was turned away very finely on the legside, but generally, Australia was baiting him to drive, bowling an offside line and gathering men behind the bat.
To that end, and with his score only 11, Mitchell Starc tempted Pietersen with a short delivery. But Pietersen was on to the ruse almost before its conception, ball despatched to the midwicket boundary in short order. The next delivery, though not as short, was still short, and again, Pietersen was there waiting for it with a pirouette that was almost a golf swing, burning it down to the fence in a style reminiscent of Gordon Greenidge.
Then, just as a partnership appeared to have settled, Australia disturbed it. Bowling with a cross-seam to guard against swing, Starc strayed to leg – possibly on purpose, probably not. A man disinclined to miss out on easy runs, Cook pursued the ball with his body but left his head behind and glanced his shot too finely, Brad Haddin’s superb flying grasp sending Cook on his way. Suddenly, England was one wicket away from serious strife.
But Ian Bell was next in, not so much seeing it big as biggest. Off the mark with a four glided through point, it looked from the start as though it would take something special to shift him.
In the period immediately after lunch, Pietersen started to move his feet, an ominous sign. Tucking into Nathan Lyon, he blasted a six to long on, immediately followed by another over mid off, taking him past 50. Then, in Lyon’s next over, Bell hoisted a six over mid off, then painted a four down to deep point.
Though both batsmen looked thoroughly entrenched, Pietersen is forever a rash decision away from uttering “it’s just the way I play”. Determining to hop down the track to a Watson ball pitched on middle and off, he mis-swiped and was struck on the pad, apparently in front of the stumps. But Tony Hill rejected the ensuing appeal and Clarke chose not to send the decision upstairs, only to discover, very quickly, that Pietersen was in line. Upon receipt of the awful news, Watson quickly worked through a scale of disbelief, fury and despair; of 15 requested reviews in the series, Australia has been correct only twice, this error effectively equivalent to a dropped catch.
Mindful of his good fortune, Pietersen restrained his inclination in the remainder of the session. Even when Australia took the second new ball, he left the strokeplay to Bell, who reached his 50 just before tea, thanks to the usual variety of clips, cuts, and drives.
The proforma persisted into the evening, Bell’s control almost indecent, Pietersen again circumspect. But the bowling was consistently demanding. When Siddle induced Pietersen to edge, the ball running through the vacant second slip area, it brought his first boundary in more than two hours. Then, in the next over, Harris found a little bit of extra bounce and movement, cutting Bell in half and clattering the top of his off-stump. Having not looked for a moment like losing his wicket, Bell was gone to a ball simply too good not to snatch it from him, for 60 – including 46 runs’ worth of boundaries – with England’s score at 225.
This brought to the wicket Jonny Bairstow, who had scored just two, when Starc bowled a short, wide ball, trying to tempt Pietersen into a big shot to bring up his century, and Pietersen slashed it up and over point for four.
Bairstow’s busyness kept things moving, but every time Australia was desperate for a wicket, it got one. With his score at 22, Starc persuaded Bairstow into a drive, and Watson took a very smart catch down by his right ankle. This did little to assuage Watson’s frustration following an afternoon of near things, and the ball was thrown away in something approximating to disgust.
But just four overs later came further consolation. Starc, who had his best day of the series, found some late movement to move the ball away from Pietersen, who misjudged the line and was caught on the pad. The review was requested almost apologetically, revealing that he was out, and then some, leaving to a richly merited standing ovation. Perhaps the least typical of all his Test centuries, and for precisely that reason, it was also one of his best, and certainly one of his most important. Talent is almost always worth the trouble.

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