England (8/15 to win the second Test) have plenty of reasons for high confidence after their 354-run win over Pakistan at Trent Bridge – but Kevin Pietersen’s form is not one of them.
Pietersen’s hard-working 22 in England’s second innings was a more important contribution than the bare statistics indicate after a first npower Test in which James Anderson took the accolades for his career-best haul of 11 for 71.
The all-South Africa-born stand between England’s mercurial number four and Jonathan Trott went a long way to protecting those who followed – including centurion Matt Prior – in a match where the pronounced pattern was for easier batting conditions once the ball became older.
Captain Andrew Strauss nonetheless knows all too well that Pietersen, still averaging more than 48 despite a run of 21 innings without a Test hundred, needs to rediscover the knack soon if he is to set off in the right frame of mind for the Ashes in under three months.
“Kevin’s fine,” he said. “He’s obviously very determined to make a telling contribution. He wasn’t able to do it in this game, although I thought he batted much better in the second innings.
“I think he’s going to come right very soon. To judge any one player on this Test match would be wrong.”
As a man of experience and wise words, Strauss’s confidence could prove to be well placed, making the 8/1 price for Pietersen to be the top run scorer in the match very appetising.
Much was made of Hampshire’s refusal to accede to an England request to give match practice before the Test to a player coming back from a minor injury but who had made it clear he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
Strauss does not think that was a major factor in what followed and said: “KP has done a lot of work over the past couple of weeks, and the most important thing is that he feels well prepared.”
Should the mercurial number four’s match fitness keep on improving, a bet on him to be the top England run scorer in the series at 6/1 could be smart.
Having only made 31 in the first Test, Pietersen is 116 runs behind England’s current top batsman Eoin Morgan, but with the ability to string big innings together he is more than capable of overtaking the Dubliner.
Pakistan have called Mohammad Yousuf into their team for extra batting nous and should he have an impact a Pakistan win in Durham (5/1) is not totally out of the question.