England v South Africa: havoc wreaked by Robin Peterson and Johan Botha raises question of Kevin Pietersen
It had all begun so well. Not just England’s innings but also their playing of spin on a gripping surface, clearly so crucial when they travel to Sri Lanka next week for the ICC World Twenty20.
Then calamity struck. Worcestershire expected 36 runs from the next four overs. England made just 17 in losing another three wickets. Eighty-one for six at the end of 14 overs was the end.
Kieswetter had hit some meaty shots before he was lbw to Johan Botha’s very first ball. The ball from the off-spinner turned, but then it will turn in Sri Lanka.
That the hapless Ravi Bopara failed was little surprise, but Eoin Morgan’s demise, playing on an attempted pull from Botha, was a surprise. The ball before had been of similar length but was slower, and it spun so sharply that it beat wicketkeeper AB de Villiers for two byes. The next was quicker and Morgan was duped.
Like Morgan Jos Buttler is usually a master of invention against spin, evidenced by his fourth-ball reverse-sweep at Botha, but when he danced down the pitch to look to hit Peterson over extra cover he was deceived in the flight and bowled. With Samit Patel brilliantly caught in the deep by Jacques Kallis off Peterson it meant South Africa’s spinners had taken 4-46 from their combined eight overs. It doesn’t bode well.
And, of course, it raised the case of an absent friend (or enemy). Kevin Pietersen was the player of the tournament in the Caribbean last time after all. There he simply scared opponents with the ferocity of his strokeplay. Some time afterwards I spoke to an Australian player about the final in which Pietersen made 47 from 31 balls in England’s seven-wicket victory. Up until then in the tournament it had been the pace of Australia’s Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson that had been doing the scaring. Then Pietersen appeared, pulling dismissively off the front foot and hitting Tait over extra-cover for six. “You could see the colour draining from their cheeks” was the gist of what I was told about the Australian bowlers that day. Against pace or spin in the shorter format (no sinistrophobia there) Pietersen can do that.
But he won’t be in Sri Lanka.
On this evidence, in this format, he is simply irreplaceable.