Pietersen looks to bigger picture
Kevin Pietersen reflected on a “satisfying” century yet admitted his 22nd in Tests would mean a lot more if it is part of a famous victory over India.
Pietersen, with 186, displayed an uncanny mastery of conditions to follow his captain Alastair Cook, who compiled 122, in equalling the all-time England record for Test tons.
Their double-century partnership put the tourists on course for a total of 413 all out, allowing Monty Panesar - with 5-61 - and Graeme Swann the leeway to exploit turning conditions at the Wankhede Stadium.
India closed on 117 for seven, just 31 runs in front, and face an uphill struggle tomorrow in their efforts to stop England levelling the four-match series at 1-1.
There was an understatement in much of what Pietersen said afterwards, which contrasted with his supreme batsmanship.
“It was a pretty difficult wicket,” he said. “You knew that at some stage a ball had your name on it, so to have got some (runs) on that was satisfying.”
In an environment which prizes the team ethos above all, Pietersen was at pains today to stress that his personal glory will count for little without subsequent collective success.
“It will mean a lot more if we win tomorrow,” he added. “Getting hundreds for England, and especially Cookie going to 22 and then saying to me ‘you haven’t got far to go, then you’re there as well’ ... it was a special moment.
“‘Chef’ was magnificent, and it’s a great feeling to be at the top of the list with him.”
The wonder of day three in the second Test was that Pietersen and Cook, in his own more functional fashion, made India’s three-strong spin attack labour so much longer for their successes.
Pietersen, in particular, was largely untroubled by sharp turn and bounce and made a nonsense of a weakness many have perceived against left-arm spin by taking a particular liking to India’s most dangerous bowler Pragyan Ojha, who claimed 5-143.
England, who lost by nine wickets in the first Test, can realistically again contemplate the possibility of series victory.
“We’ve come here to try and win and want to ‘front up’ to the challenge,” Pietersen added. “The captain asked that of us, especially before this second Test match, and some of the guys are really going a long way to win us this one tomorrow.”
Pietersen, meanwhile, credits an impressive team unity as a catalyst for England’s upturn in fortunes at Mumbai.
“The dressing room is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “We’re sticking together really well, all helping each other out - and not letting things get on top of us.
“If anybody is going through a rough time, everybody else is right behind them. It’s a very united dressing room at the moment, and it will be even more so if we manage to pull off a brilliant victory tomorrow.”
The transformation in Pietersen’s - and England’s - fortunes has been quite incredible in the space of just a week.
Two fretful innings at the Sardar Patel Stadium amounted to 17 and two for Pietersen, whereas today’s will likely go down as one of the greats in the history of English cricket - alongside efforts against Sri Lanka at Colombo and South Africa at Headingley Carnegie earlier this year.
“I wasn’t playing well in Ahmedabad,” said Pietersen. “I didn’t trust my defence as much as I did coming into this Test match. As a batter, if you don’t trust your defence as much you try too many things; you try to force the issue.
“I went and did a lot of hard work, as I always do, and luckily it paid off.”
He discounts the suggestion that he was simply trying too hard in his comeback Test after missing England’s final clash with South Africa this summer.
“Not at all, no,” he said. “I like to keep things simple, but I just didn’t go into that fixture with the right defence. I don’t think the preparation leading into the Test match tested me enough.”