Did you think I’d leave it alone this year, just because I’ve been quiet recently? Of course not. When a key date like this, a key anniversary such as this comes along for this blog, then of course I’m going to commemorate. Just as we will with the two other anniversaries / birthdays this week. Why I do this can be summed up by a Tweet on Friday, when Pietersen said he was nor putting his name forward for the IPL. The suspicion being, certainly in the eyes of some of the media, that an Indian franchise would not part with big money for a player who hasn’t played a full IPL schedule since his sacking from the England team. So what? If KP thinks he’s not going to get a sufficient amount of money for two full months away then that is his decision.
The Indian fans on his twitter feed were generally very disappointed. The England fans on there were generally vindictive. Oh well. We knew that would happen.
We know the significance of the decision, still. That you placate mediocrity to put mavericks in their place. To announce a decision and still never say why you did it, treating the supporters with contempt. To see how the media reacted. It’s still too funny to watch the contortions, the sheer hatred that people have for him.
So, by way of a tribute, if it could be construed as such, I thought I’d share a part of a post I wrote some time ago. I intend, and still do, to go through each of his test hundreds, but I haven’t got the energy, time or desire to really do it at this time. But I had written a lot on the first one, and I give you now the draft thus far. It’s unfinished, it’s quite long, there’s still most of his innings to do, but there’s a ton about the build up to his 158. Hope you enjoy it.
Pietersen Century 01 – “The One That Saved A Dream”
I don’t think anyone who was an England cricket fan will truly forget that day. I don’t think you should either. There’s nothing quite like toppling a giant, and there’s nothing quite like doing it in style. That the style came from someone as un-English should not, and at the time, did not bother anyone. And by un-English I’m not going to get into qualification procedures, whether his mum being English was enough despite his background, but by the way Pietersen set out to save the game. It wasn’t English. You wanted to see English? Wait 18 months for Adelaide.
Four days earlier I’d had enough of Kevin Pietersen. Enough of the macho bullshit. Enough of the “it’s the way I play” stuff. Enough of the “mates with Warney” twaddle. I didn’t want my England players to be mates with the Aussies. Imagine Ponting having Pimms with Freddie? Of course not. Pietersen rang too many celeb sportsman alarm bells. So I did what I always did in these positions…. I took the piss. Pretended to my mates that he was the best thing since sliced bread. Did stupid pictures. Cooed at his very name. Sure, I loved what he did at Lord’s and Edgbaston but this seemed like a fire burning brightly, but for a short time. Graeme Hick made ODI hundreds. Never that great as a tesr player. I seriously doubted KP had it as a test batsman. When he lost his wicket to Warne on the first day, to another macho shot, I texted my mate Tom (who writes for the Offside Rule site) and we exchanged comments on how the bloke’s ego was way ahead of his production. In truth, it was a totally English response. It was bloody defeatist. That the only way to success, England style, was process. Play safe. Limit risk. At that time I wasn’t a risk assessor, and so hadn’t had my life complicated by weighing up those sorts of things.
But it is also odd how your memory plays tricks on you. I could have sworn when KP was out we were 80-odd for 4. We weren’t. We were 131 for 4, which although not great, wasn’t awful. I thought he was out for single figures. He wasn’t. It was 14. Again, not substantial but better than the 3 or 4 I thought he got. I think it is symptomatic of the way we remember things. Exaggerate the highs, depress the lows.
I was at The Oval for the first three days. I did some eccentric things prior to it, including hiding the tickets in a book in case we were burgled. Yes, I know. Dumb. Extenuating circumstances? Mum died two months before. I’m not sure my head was on straight for a couple of years after that. What was clear that I had about £1000 worth of tickets in my house for me and my mates, and they were worth a bloody fortune. I must have checked I had them all the way to London Bridge, when I could offload them on a mate. Or at least some of them. I’d seen Millwall in the FA Cup Semi-Final the year before and been nervous as hell. This was up there. This was, as every England fan knows, massive.
Those first three days left you constantly wondering if we were about to blow it. Yet again, the memory plays tricks. The opening stand was decent, and quite pacy, but I thought it ended in the 50s, not the 80s. Then I thought Ian Bell went straight away – none of us had any faith in Bell at this point – and he did. I seem to recall Vaughan at three played a really poor shot, and given Cricinfo’s update, he did. So KP’s demise at 131 had us all worried, with the high risk strategy that was Freddie at six, and Jones at seven. However, as he’d done all summer, Freddie played brilliantly, and at the other end, Andrew Strauss scored one of England’s greatest ever hundreds. It’s great because absolutely no-one talks about it, but without it we were dead.
There’s little sense in playing out the whole test in detail, because the story has been told. What I intend to do with the hundred is to put it into personal context, to go through the highlights I have and comment on what I’ve got, and add some of the perspectives in books and reports from the day. Distilling this isn’t going to be simple. I’ve been reading “Is It Cowardly To Pray For Rain”, which is the Guardian’s OBO reports on the series, and fills you with all the dread I get from some of this self-referential drivel, but, in its defence, it is a good reference point to judge mood swings.
Now I do remember my mate, who I secured tickets for and went to Australia with in 2002 (and South Africa the previous winter) had managed to secure one for that day. I’ve forgiven them both (the other mate, who got it, had known Sir Peter longer than me, and did great work getting tickets in 2006, so I forgive him!) and yet jealousy permeated my core that day. However, given my test record, my mate in Australia, Matt, was delighted that I wasn’t there, figuring we had more of a chance if I wasn’t (“you were at Lord’s.”…he said). I had to face up to following the action, knowing my brain would not allow me to concentrate on anything like work, in the office, on the internet, and sneaking up to the TV room for as many crafty looks as I could. It used to be if you smoked, you could nab quite long breaks. Coffee? No. You looked like a skiver.
As many of you will remember the state of the game coming into that day was “delicately poised”. A large chunk of time had been lost to bad light the previous day – play was starting at 10:30 in the last year of Channel 4’s contract and this test match started in early September, the 8th to be precise – so that the factor of overs remaining was pertinent and every ball, over, run survived drew the target further away from being accomplished. The 5th day was set fair, no real cloudiness, and England resumed on 34 for 1, having lost Strauss to Warne in the 4th over of the innings. This meant England resumed 40 in front after the Herculean bowling early on Day 4 had dragged the Aussie potential advantage back. England had made 373. Australia were 185 for 0, 264 for 1, 323 for 3, but Freddie did us proud. 367 all out. A lead, a precious lead of 6. Or potentially, a number of runs that could be scored from one ball.
The fact was 28 in front was nothing. Permutations suggested England needed to be batting until tea, at a minimum. Australia would go for pretty much anything. England needed to be scoring around 200-220 to give themselves a chance at a normal test rate of scoring. England’s approach had been positive, so we thought they might go on the attack a little. Australia had Shane Warne. We were, to be frank, effing terrified of him. By we, I meant the fans. I know I was……
Just remember how we felt at the start of that day. Just remember.
Happy Contempt for the Public Day.