Kevin Pietersen has completed England’s full house of specialist Test batsmen with a half-century under their belts in time for the start of the Ashes.
After Jonathan Trott (83) and Alastair Cook (81) softened up the Australian Invitational XI attack at the SCG on day two of England’s final warm-up match, Pietersen did not need to be anywhere near his best to add 57 of his own in quick time as England replied to 304 all out with 302 for five by stumps.
While both Trott and Cook were frustrated to give away their hard work, in an important second-wicket stand of 143 after the early loss of Michael Carberry, Pietersen betrayed a more prodigal approach to batting against inexperienced bowlers.
Twice, he tried a prototype reverse-ramp shot at young leg-spinner James Muirhead – failing to make intended contact on both occasions – before being well-caught in the deep off the same bowler by substitute fielder Dan Hughes.
Despite just one previous innings on tour, and a score of eight on that occasion in rainy Hobart, Pietersen did not appear to be putting too high a price on his wicket.
Trott already had a hundred to his name on tour, in Perth two weeks ago; yet his evident annoyance after edging Josh Lalor behind spoke volumes for the contrasting minds of the batsmen.
“I think Kev’s pretty unique in the way he goes about his game and thinks about it, but it’s always nice to see him in full flow and being confident even in warm-up games,” said Trott.
“It doesn’t really count now, what the guys do. It’s all about being ready and right for Brisbane on that first day. The way Kev goes about it might be different to someone else, but he looks in good form to me.”
Pietersen was also able to demonstrate his physical well-being following last weekend’s cortisone injection in his problem right knee. “He seems fine. I haven’t heard him complain about it,” added Trott.
Much, in fact, appears in order for England – albeit after a rain-wrecked match in Tasmania against Australia A last week, and now against callow opposition. Steven Finn finished with a flattering five-wicket haul, and Stuart Broad four for 37 in 24 overs as the Invitationals collapsed from an overnight 271 for five. The tourists’ batsmen, Carberry apart, then clicked again.
Trott said: “Everyone has got a few runs, and is feeling good about the game, but you’re not going to know exactly what nick you’re in until you’re in front of 40 or 50,000 people at Brisbane.
“It’s more about getting prepared mentally for that, being ready for the challenge and a tight-knit unit.”
England’s No 3 took issue with the suggestion there might have been some easy pickings, on a very good batting surface.
He added: “It’s quite a new-ball wicket. It does seam around a little bit with the new ball, so that’s been crucial. This morning, the ball was ten overs old and still doing a bit.”
He insists an attack comprising four frontline bowlers with only 12 first-class matches to their names collectively nonetheless provided a significant test. “They were a lot better than what people described. They gave us a good challenge,” he said. “It’s a good batting wicket, and when the ball was new they did cause a few problems.”
That, perhaps, was why he swished his bat in annoyance when he fell short of a century and walked off holding the blade rather than the handle with both hands behind his back.
He said: “As a cricketer, you have self-pride and want to get out there and do as well as you can every time – not just the Test matches. I felt I was in good form, and played at a ball I probably shouldn’t have – so that’s why I was disappointed.
“You want to go out there and play a perfect innings all the time, but you are going to make mistakes. Today I did, and paid for it.”