Aggressive approach pays off for Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen admitted he had operated in “one-day mode” after firing England into a position of strength in Colombo with a dazzling 151 on day three of the second Test against Sri Lanka.
Pietersen, who struggled for runs in the previous Test series against Pakistan before finding top form with back-to-back one-day international hundreds against the same opposition, was at his belligerent best in an aggressive 165-ball innings containing 16 fours and six sixes.
His breathtaking contribution, together with substantial scores from Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, lifted England to 460 all out and a first-innings lead of 185, before Sri Lanka survived the final over of the day to reach four without loss.
"In the last one-day series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and into the T20s, and into the Test series here I have felt in fantastic form so it was just a case of cashing in when you’re in good nick," explained Pietersen at the close.
"The amount of cricket we play now, it doesn’t matter if you are playing one-day or Tests, it all rolls into one. It’s just a different approach. I played in one-day mode today.
"When I'm in form I like to play like that. I've never been able to explain how I play. I just go out and if the ball's there to hit I'll hit it. I have quite a simple technique, it just worked.
"I am also a big sweater and a quick game is a good game. I couldn’t have blocked out all those balls and got 50 or 60. A longer innings probably would have done the world of good but it was so hot there was no way I could bat until tomorrow."
Pietersen credited hard work as a key factor in his and England’s success with the bat today, which represented a welcome contrast from their struggles earlier in the year.
He added: "I think when you’re in good form you have to cash in. All the hard work I’ve done with Mushy (spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed) since Dubai paid off, not just for me today but for Cooky too.
"It’s not just me who has cashed in. All the batters have come to the party. To score 400-odd in the first innings is a nice reward for the hard work we’ve put in.
"After two months off I found it quite difficult to move my feet efficiently. I’d like to play those Test matches again the way I'm playing now.
"You go through cycles of being in good nick and feeling like an idiot. I felt like an idiot in the first couple of Tests but we've turned the corner after a lot of hard graft."
Pietersen expressed his delight at surpassing batting coach Graham Gooch as England’s leading century-maker in all forms of the game.
After registering his 29th England hundred, he said: "I got wind of it in Dubai that I had tied with Goochy. It's a very proud day for me and my family, but records get broken and that one will get broken.
"It's something I’m very proud of and I'm happy my mum and dad were here, but you don't make an issue out of it because there are blokes out there who have so many more than me and so many more than I'll ever get."
Today’s innings also saw Pietersen move within two of the record number of Test centuries by an England batsman. He now has 20, one more than team-mates Strauss and Cook, who fell six short of a ton of his own.
"At the end of my career I’ll be very proud of the way I’ve trained and played. Where I end up is where I end up," Pietersen added.
"It’s the stuff dreams are made of, a proud moment. But Cook should get a lot more hundreds than I get!"
England’s final five wickets fell for 49 runs as Rangana Herath completed a six-wicket haul and Pietersen did hint at an element of frustration in the tourists’ dressing room.
"We have got ourselves in a good position in the Test match but in the last session we may have let ourselves down," he said.
"Tomorrow will be an interesting day’s cricket."