Pietersen open to new role
Kevin Pietersen is confident his surprise move up to open the batting will prove a success for England in the World Cup.
Pietersen, previously a fixture at number four, instead took on the new ball in today’s narrow warm-up victory over Canada.
After making 24 on a painfully slow wicket, he could claim only an acceptable initial experience - as could England, bailed out by the batting of Matt Prior and the bowling of a fit-again Stuart Broad, who claimed 5-37, in the first fixture of their sub-continental campaign.
Prior, a previous incumbent at the top of the order but shunted down to number six, made 78 and Jonathan Trott 58 to help salvage a competitive 243 all out.
When Broad and Ajmal Shahzad - also returning from injury - reduced Canada to 28 for five, it seemed the contest was going rapidly with the script of a wide-margin England victory.
But that was reckoning without the big hitting of Rizwan Cheema, who struck a 71-ball 93 to put Canada in position to pull off an unlikely win until Broad returned to see off him and finally Khurram Chohan.
Pietersen could therefore reflect on a hard-earned victory, and his own novel experience.
“It’s really exciting - a nice positive move going into the World Cup,” he said of his chance at the top of the order.
Pietersen has had only fitful opportunities as an opener at any level, but England have confirmed he will stay there in this tournament.
“We spoke about it going into the end of the Australia tour,” he added. “We feel at the top of the innings is a really nice time to bat. I’m excited by it, the team are excited by it, and I’m looking forward to it.
“I’ll look to play my normal game. It’s not a pinch-hitting role. It was put to me, and I was very excited - and the team are right behind the decision. I’m fine.”
Pietersen did not need much persuasion to agree to the promotion.
“It’s something you think about - (it) could be nice, especially in the sub-continent,” he continued.
“Then once it was talked about seriously I went away and had a couple of days to think about. I thought it was exciting - and I have a nice little feeling about it.”
He already has a century in his short CV as an opener, for England A against their India counterparts in February 2004 - and added: “I have fond memories of that, and I hope to replicate it at some stage.”
As for England’s overall performance, he was encouraged they came through in awkward circumstances.
“It was nice to get a few boys back (from injury),” he said.
“They were tough conditions today, but (there was) some really good stuff from our lads - Broad coming back, Shahzad coming back and Matt Prior playing beautifully in the middle of the innings, and Jonathan Trott playing really nicely. Broadie and Shaz bowled with the new ball exceptionally well.
“At the end of the day one bloke from Canada played beautifully, hit the ball out of the middle of the bat and played a wonderful innings - and that can happen on any particular day. Hats off to him, but we still won the game.”
England flew out to Bangladesh only four days after returning from Australia, and Pietersen pointed to the markedly different conditions as part of the reasons for their far from convincing display.
He denied, however, that England underestimated the threat posed by one of the World Cup minnows.
“I don’t think we were relaxed,” he said. “It’s nice to get accustomed to conditions when it doesn’t matter.
“We’ve come from three months in Australia in totally different conditions, different wickets, different outfields. We only got off an aeroplane, after how many miles of travelling, two days ago.”
England’s last 50-over experience, at the end of their 6-1 Commonwealth Bank Series defeat to Australia, came at the WACA last week.
Pietersen added: “We’ve just come from Western Australia, Perth - the fastest wicket in the world - to one of the slowest wickets you’ll play an international fixture on.
“We’re going to find ourselves on different wickets and different situations. I hope we’ll find ourselves on wickets that are quicker than this.”
Pakistan-born Cheema, who threatened to embarrass England, said: “It feels great when the ball is going out of the park.
“We just lost too many early wickets when we didn’t get behind the ball. They bowled pretty well. If we’d not lost so many early, it would be a different story.”