Kevin Pietersen might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he played innings for England that very few could

Kevin Pietersen played some of the great innings of the modern era in an England shirt. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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Kevin Pietersen might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he played innings for England that very few could

BANGLAORE: Years from now, if someone asks you how good Kevin Pietersen the batsman was, you need only show them a 30-second clip as your answer. It is from the fractious summer of 2012, and a series against South Africa that would cast a long shadow over the rest of his international career.
The visitors won by an innings at The Oval, with Dale Steyn taking five for 56 in the second innings. At Headingley, facing a South Africa total of 419, Pietersen played one of the finest innings of his career, 149 off just 214 balls. One stroke exemplified his dominance. Steyn, then in his prime, dropped one short. Pietersen barely moved from his stance while swatting the ball through midwicket for four.
Contemptuous doesn’t even begin to describe it. Imperious. Regal. Dismissive. But the highlight of the footage is not the shot itself. It’s the sight of an incredulous Steyn walking back to his bowling mark, muttering. The body language is telling. It is like he is asking himself: “How do I bowl to this bloke?”
Three of the hundreds Pietersen made that year, including the Headingley one, may never be bettered by an England batsman. At the P Sara Oval in Colombo that April, on a pitch where the average run rate was well below three, he smashed 151 off 165 balls, with 16 fours and six sixes. Then, with England chasing 94 for a series-leveling win, he came out and thumped 42 off 28.
At the end of the year, England were in India. They lost the first Test in Ahmedabad, and Cheteshwar Pujara’s doughty century then took India to 327 on a raging turner in Mumbai. Expert commentators and veteran journalists alike reckoned England would struggle to get anywhere close to that total, with R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha having the ball on a string.
When Pietersen arrived at the crease, England had eked out 68 for two in 34 overs. By the time, he was sixth out for 186 (233 balls), they had added a further 314 at four an over. Pietersen’s drives, cuts, flicks, sweeps and reverse sweeps utterly destroyed the bowlers’ confidence, and England went on to win both the Test and the series.
Yet, less than 14 months later, he had played his last Test for England, tallying three and six in Sydney as England lost the Ashes 5-0 for the second time in seven years. He was a convenient scapegoat, especially given his behavior during the series loss against South Africa in 2012. His description of Andrew Strauss, his then captain, as a "doos" [an extremely unflattering Afrikaans word] in a text message sent to the South African camp ensured that his relationship with the rest of the dressing room was a tenuous one. Though a few players stuck up for him after he was axed, there was no mutinous mood over the jettisoning of England’s most captivating batsman.

That tended to be a theme wherever he played. When he left South Africa as a young man, convinced that the transformation policies would stymie his progress, the general response was ‘Good riddance’. You heard the same thing from his teammates at Nottinghamshire, where he made all the runs that got him into the England reckoning.
Some though would argue that the abrasiveness was a self-protective shell. Michael Vaughan, his captain during that famous Ashes summer of 2005 when he made both his debut and his name, certainly thought so. In an interview with The Guardian after the urn had been won back, Vaughan said: “KP is not a confident person. He obviously has great belief in his ability, but that's not quite the same thing. I know KP wants to be loved. I try to text him and talk to him as often as I can because I know he is insecure.”
With Pietersen, what you saw was seldom what you got. He was a master at saying the right things to the right people. In December 2008, a few weeks after terror attacks in Mumbai left hundreds dead and wounded, India chased down 387 in Chennai against an England side led by him. At the press conference, Pietersen was charm personified, calling Sachin Tendulkar "Superman" and making all the right noises about India and its people.
A few months later, he went for $1.55 million at the IPL auction. But in nearly a decade, he played just 36 IPL games, and none at all after 2016. The franchises thought him box-office, and he played the odd innings that proved as much, but you could never escape the impression that he hated the goldfish-bowl atmosphere of the IPL.
The last four years have been a blur of Twenty20 games across continents, most of the innings forgotten by the next morning. But what will endure, despite all the controversy, is his body of work with England. Just think back to that Lord’s debut — the six over long-off against Glenn McGrath, the soaring clip over midwicket off Shane Warne, and the Brett Lee short ball that landed up on a balcony.
He may not have been everyone’s cup of Tetley tea, but Pietersen could play. Like few others ever have.


Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

Updated 20 April 2019
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Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

  • Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor
  • Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting

ORLANDO, Florida: Pascal Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and the Toronto Raptors held off the Orlando Magic 98-93 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting. Leonard had 10 rebounds, Danny Green had 13 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assist.
Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.
The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.
That being said, they went down swinging.
Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.
Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, and were doomed shortly afterward. Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game again, and that closed the scoring.
Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.
Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half.
Orlando got within one on three occasions in the first half, but never got the lead in the opening 24 minutes. Toronto took a 48-45 lead into the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.
He took off from the Magic logo and released the ball with about a half-second remaining, it hitting the square on the backboard perfectly and dropping through. Ross never broke stride, watching the ball’s flight as he ran and kept going through the tunnel leading to the Magic locker room.
TIP-INS
Raptors: Toronto had lost four consecutive Game 3s. ... Patrick McCaw (sprained right thumb) was active, but did not play. ... The Raptors are 6-1 in their last seven road games this season. ... Siakam has 73 points and 30 rebounds in the series.
Magic: Among the former Orlando players in the building were Tracy McGrady, Jameer Nelson and Horace Grant. ... Orlando missed three shots at the rim in one third-quarter possession. Vucevic missed at the rim, and Gordon couldn’t convert on two putback tries. ... Attendance was 19,367, the second-most in the Amway Center’s nine-season history.
GOVERNOR SPEAKS
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s first lady Casey DeSantis were in attendance and received Magic “46” jerseys — a nod to his being the 46th governor of the Sunshine State. The governor and Magic CEO Alex Martins spoke pregame about the hope for Orlando to get another All-Star Game soon, though all through 2022 has already been awarded to other Eastern Conference cities — and Milwaukee, another East city, has expressed interest in 2023.
UP NEXT
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.