So Pragyan Ojha got the better of Kevin Pietersen for the third time in three innings. The only glitch was that it was after the “reintegrated” right-hander had smashed an imperious, match-defining 186 to push India to the brink of an embarrassing and, more importantly, eye-opening defeat.
KP began the day on 62, only 25 behind skipper Alastair Cook. And by the time Ojha had him caught behind in the 48th over of the day, England were 382/6, 55 to the good. What Pietersen dished out for close to two sessions was magic. His knock will rank among the best scored by a visiting batsman on Indian soil, let alone in Mumbai. For, he gave everyone, especially India’s batting giants, a lesson on how to deal with a pre-ordered rank turner.
Pietersen made sure he didn’t repeat any of those silly mistakes in the first Test. In Ahmedabad, he was all over the place; here, the ball went places. It must, however, be noted that India’s spinners helped his cause by bowling awfully slow, short and wide. He needed just 42 balls to smash the requisite 38 to get to three figures. It was a reverse-sweep —past first slip to the boundary — that brought him his 22nd Test hundred, thereby helping him equal the record held by the legendary trio of Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott, and also Cook who’d joined the club only five minutes before.
If Cook was obdurate, Pietersen was all genius. Curiously enough, the man credited his defensive technique for Sunday’s run fest. “I wasn’t playing well at all in Ahmedabad. I did not trust my defence as much as I trusted my defence coming into this Test match and as a batter if you don’t trust your defence, you try too many things to force the issue,” he said.
By the time England took lunch, at 298/4, Cook was gone. The second session saw him up another gear. He singled out Ojha, carting him for three sixes, two of those slog-sweeps. The best of the lot was the one which he dispatched over extra-cover. Ojha bowled a wide half-volley from around the wicket and Pietersen didn’t even have to move his feet. That’s how slow the bowler was.
“I haven’t faced my own spinners, but our spinners have bowled a bit quicker,” he said, pointing out where our spinners erred. Gautam Gambhir, too, echoed KP’s views.
And just when it looked like Pietersen would get a double hundred, Ojha induced him to drive, a rare instance in the England innings. Dhoni did the rest, but KP walked back knowing he’d done the job.