Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Kevin Pietersen scraps it out to keep England hopes alive

Kevin Pietersen of England rests after falling ill during day one of the Fourth Ashes Test Match between Australia and England at Melbourne Cricket Ground

Hard work: Kevin Pietersen reinedhimself for a patient 67 not outKEVIN Pietersen showed an exemplary determination to battle for every run in front of a world-record 91,092 full house at the MCG.

England's most mercurial batsman had to rein in his crowd-pleasing instincts to try to keep the tourists competitive – and it was that element of Pietersen's unbeaten 67 which most impressed Ian Bell.

This was England's first Test day without Graeme Swann – following his mid-series retirement, with the Ashes already lost – while another cornerstone of many successes over the past five years was also missing, after they dropped out-of-form wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

The tourists were indebted to Pietersen and Bell, who were were unable to dominate but still put on 67 together out of 226 for six.

Pietersen managed just four boundaries and a six – a mishook which very nearly brought his early downfall but was instead carried over the rope by substitute fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile.

He, therefore, went past Geoff Boycott into fourth place among England's top all-time Test runscorers during his hard-working innings, and Bell made it clear how highly his efforts were valued.

"He probably wasn't at his most fluent – as with a lot of us on this trip. So it's great signs to see him scrap it out," said Bell.

Pietersen has been criticised in some quarters this winter for getting out, when set, to especially ambitious shots.

But Bell said: "He is outstanding. He does play an aggressive game, and sometimes – at the WACA, you get caught at long on [in the third Test] – it doesn't look particularly great.

"But the number of games he's won in the past, there's not many players like that in world cricket.

"If you want one guy to go out there to try to get us up to a competitive score, it would be KP."

Pietersen was not the only batsman who had to grind out his runs, after Australia put England in under cloudy skies at the start of this fourth Test.

Conditions brightened, and it became apparent the pitch favoured bat over ball, but Australia's disciplined attack is so high on confidence that easy scoring opportunities were very rare.

"It was (attritional)," added Bell. "Obviously, it was a little bit disappointing we couldn't get the scoring rate up a bit more.

"But credit to Australia again – the way they bowled as a unit, on a pretty good pitch.

"It has made it hard work and they must be full of confidence. They deserve to be – they've outplayed us in all three disciplines.

"For us, it's a real scrap. But at least the guys are showing some fight."

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