Pietersen looking to make amends
Kevin Pietersen admits he batted “like a plonker” when England last toured Sri Lanka, but is now ready to score a century in the country.
When England made their previous Test trip to the island in 2007-08, Pietersen had his first serious stutter in international cricket.
In six innings he managed just 126 runs, the first time in his Test career he failed to score at least a half-century in a series.
Pietersen has set his sights on hitting hundreds home and away against all major Test-playing nations and - although he has not played against Zimbabwe and has a best of 99 in four Tests versus Bangladesh - the last two goals on his hit-list are hundreds in Sri Lanka and his native South Africa.
“This is a huge challenge because I came here last time and batted like a plonker,” he said as England travelled to Galle ahead of Monday’s first Test.
“I wasn’t playing well at all. It was an opportunity for me to get an away century against Sri Lanka. I’ve got home and away against every country except Sri Lanka and South Africa.
“It’s a huge opportunity to do it now, and then try and get South Africa at some stage. If I do, that’s like one of my little goals I think about. If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”
Pietersen feels his game is in good enough order to fulfil his ambition, despite struggling alongside all of his top-order team-mates in the 3-0 Test whitewash at the hands of Pakistan.
He got back into form with back-to-back hundreds in the subsequent one-day series and has looked in commanding form during knocks of 39, 26 and 52 in England’s two recent practice games.
Pietersen struggles to explain what was missing during the Pakistan series in the United Arab Emirates but knows that he has found it again.
“I’m back to batting like I used to. I found it tough to find what I had last summer, very tough to hold on to it,” he said.
“It took a little bit of time but it clicked. I remember doing one session with Mushtaq Ahmed (England’s spin coach) where I looked at him, he looked at me and it was like...’we’re back’.
“It’s the most weird thing ever but it’s an amazing feeling, especially for me...a lot goes off my shoulders.”
Pietersen, meanwhile, is also ready to offer England something with the ball, having brushed aside concerns over Ravi Bopara’s inability to deliver his medium pacers.
“He might bowl you four overs (in an innings). I can bowl those overs, Jonathan Trott can bowl those four overs. It’s not a massive setback,” said Pietersen.
Pietersen’s primary concern is over the energy-sapping conditions that await England, who went through over 400 bottles of water as they fielded on day one of their last practice match.
Even longer stints in the field could be in front of them in the Test series and Pietersen stressed the challenge that represents.
“It’s unbelievable, make no bones about that,” he said.
“The heat, I think, is the biggest threat to us. But it’s something we have to try to get over as quickly as possible.
“I’m trying to just not do too much and to conserve a lot of energy, not run around like a crazy fool like you do in England or Australia or South Africa, where you can afford to do that.
“It’s something we have to try to control. We’ve been out here for two weeks and it has got a lot better.”