Kevin Pietersen provided the brief panache, and Alastair Cook the necessary substance, in their opening gambits on England’s tour of India.
For Pietersen, returning after his summer of discontent and successful ‘reintegration’ with vexed management and team-mates, a flighty 23 – complete with eerily appropriate dismissal to old adversary Yuvraj Singh – was notable. For Cook, embarking on his first Test tour as permanent captain, it was fitting as well as valuable that he should contribute a trademark 207-ball century to underpin England’s 286 for four in reply to India A’s 369 all out on day two of three at the Brabourne Stadium.
Cook (112no) brought his famed powers of concentration and discipline to bear as he first shared an important second-wicket stand of 95 with Jonathan Trott (56) and then an unbroken one of 153 with Samit Patel (82no).
Pietersen was in and out, by comparison, in the blink of an eye. But it was hard to risk blinking while he was there and, inevitably, his fretful stay will overshadow for many the labours of Cook or the significance of Patel’s case for Test inclusion as a batting all-rounder.
Pietersen, batting for his adopted country for the first time since he was dropped for the Lord’s Test, hit a six over long-off and three fours in a near run-a-ball innings. India A captain Raina was the man hit for six and duly replaced himself with Yuvraj – infamously dubbed a “pie-chucker” by Pietersen on England’s last Test trip here four years ago. Pietersen responded by trying to assert himself against the all-rounder, who has become one of his favoured Twitter sparring partners. But slow left-armer Yuvraj, continuing his comeback in the world game after recovering from lung cancer, had the last laugh on Pietersen this time when he moved smartly to his left to take a return catch. Yuvraj was all smiles again soon afterwards when Ian Bell edged him to slip, leaving Cook and Patel with much work to do.
England had lost their first wicket with just two runs on the board when Nick Compton endured a false start to his prospective international career with a third-ball duck.
Twenty-nine-year-old Compton, grandson of the great Denis, is being pencilled in by many as likely replacement for the retired Andrew Strauss as Cook’s opening partner on this tour. But he will first need a substantial innings or two under his belt before the opening Test in Ahmedabad on 15 November –and yesterday, he got no such thing.
Cook and Trott were in no particular hurry as they sought to avoid any more early dramas. Trott completed his 50 with a cut for his ninth four from the seam bowling of Parvinder Awana in early afternoon. Soon afterwards, though, he uncharacteristically lost concentration – going back rather than forward to a Raina off-break – to be bowled.
Earlier, James Anderson gave England the perfect start to the day when he had R Vinay Kumar lbw with an inswinger first ball to end the home innings without addition. Also among the non-Pietersen footnotes was Patel, although his 92-ball 50 is deserving of more prominent billing, in content and context for a cricketer who may be no bit-part player over the next two months.