Cow Corner

KP talked into left-arm trap

Cow Corner

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Jonathan
Trott today joined Kevin Pietersen as one of England's two current batsmen with more
than one Test double century to his name.

But while Trott's
star rises with every match - despite those nagging voices saying he scores too
slowly (come on - can you really criticise a man who currently averages 66.77
at this level?) - Pietersen's is dulled.

Once upon a
time KP was a brash batsman who paid treated bowlers with the reputation
of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath with about as much respect as he did his own
hair (you remember the skunk).

It wasn't
just that he could face up to the greats with confidence - it was that he could
play shots against them which would make him their master.

The sights
of a corridor delivery from McGrath being flamingo-ed through the leg side for four,
or of Muttiah Muralitharan, another tormenter of England batsman, being switch
hit for six, not only showed Pietersen's brilliance, but gave team-mates
belief. 'Maybe those Australians aren't so unbeatable after all if they fear
someone in our side'.

Those days
are gone, with no return in sight.

Pietersen perished today as he does so
often - beaten by a left-arm spinner. In between times in this innings Ranguna
Herath sent down 263 other legitimate balls - but KP's was the only wicket he
managed.

Pietersen
might be looking at the delivery and thinking it was fated to turn out this
way. As others kept scoring heavily, England's one-time leading batsman missed
out again, undone by a left-arm spinner, something the Twittersphere took
precious little time to work out had now happened to him 43 times in
international cricket.

His
weakness to this particular type of bowler started off not as a technical
problem, but as something of a tongue-in-cheek commentary. A joke.

Almost
irritated by less than full-time twirlers like Yuvraj Singh bowling to him,
Pietersen would conspire to get out to rash strokes and slogs gone wrong.

Not any
more. Now he is tentative, jarring at the crease. Herath's arm ball kept a
little low, but KP was a long way short of it, his bat trailing well
behind his pad at the point of contact.

His quest
to fix this aspect of his game has taken him far and wide - he even spoke to
Rahul Dravid about it in 2010, responding with a 99 against Bangladesh in
Chittagong after which he felt he had turned the corner. But around that corner were just more left-arm spinners.

To Cowers,
it looks like Pietersen is trying to fix a technical problem that began as a
mental one. Put simply, if he rediscovers his swagger, his feet will move better against
the spinners.

In a team
where he can trust others to fire, it might look on the surface as if he has ample opportunity to be
carefree again and play himself back into form.

But perhaps
that's another psychological problem for Pietersen to face up to as well. In
2005, England needed him. And there is a sense with Pietersen that he needs to
be needed - consider his remarks in 2008 when, having scored a century against
South Africa at Lord's in 2008, he said, "I've never felt so loved."

Now,
England don't need him - he's just a part of an increasingly strong batting
line-up.

Can he
reconcile himself to that?

Can he ever
play like the version of Kevin Pietersen who had yet to be burdened by
self-doubt?

There's
still a place for him if he can - and a chance to rewrite records for England
if he does.

+++++

TWEET OF THE DAY: "Try commentating on it..." Michael Vaughan responds to Piers Morgan's suggestion that the Test
match has been 'bloody boring'.

SHOT OF THE DAY: For a while it was hard to know whether England
had purposely accelerated the run rate or not. Then Ian Bell launched into a switch hit for four and it became clearer.
Added to his six over the top against Herath early in his innings, the evidence
suggests that Bell has stolen Pietersen's mojo.

STAT OF THE DAY: 102 - The number of runs that Upul Tharanga scored in the
quarter-final for Sri Lanka against England in March. If those runs hadn't
counted in the 10-wicket win by the co-hosts because of his positive
drugs test during the tournament
, well... no, you're right - Kumar
Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene would have got them instead.

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