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James Lawton: Australia feel the full force of Kevin Pietersen’s power


Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century as he puts the Aussies to the sword in ruthless fashion in Adelaide

Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century as he puts the Aussies to the sword in ruthless fashion in Adelaide

Scott Barbour

Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century as he puts the Aussies to the sword in ruthless fashion in Adelaide

All the talk has been of cycles of strength and weakness, how one has put England up and another left Australia down.

Some things, though, are eternal. They include, if we ever doubted it, the sublime shot-making ability of Kevin Pietersen.

Every English hope and Aussie fear was fulfilled with a great mountain of evidence that at the age of 30, and with the experience of 66 Tests, he has come here with both a new head and an old, natural-born brilliance.

He certainly made each second of the time Ricky Ponting and his demoralised Australian team spent on the field an excruciating ordeal of powerlessness and humiliation as the visitors sailed to 551-4, 306 runs ahead of their hosts.

When he stepped down the wicket to dispatch Xavier Doherty, who represents the latest desperate attempt to find just a glimmer of a slow-bowling threat in the void left by Shane Warne, to hit him for a vast, straight six, it seemed like the right time for intervention from the League Against Cruel Sports.

Instead there was a thunder and rain and a hold-up in the slaughter.

It was not nearly enough, however, to wash away the reality that this second Test had thrown up one crushing fact.

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It is that only a miracle of suspended logic can stop England retaining the Ashes in the next few weeks.

The weather forecast said that there would be showers and maybe a storm or two. But the cricket forecast could be made much more confidently. This said that with the accumulation of poise and authority and, most vitally, sound judgment displayed by Pieterson in his 17th Test century and second double hundred the last serious question mark against England's prospects has been removed. Some of his warmer admirers will of course dispute the existence of the question in the first place.

But they will be wrong because if we knew of his ability to make the most beautiful runs we were increasingly aware of the strange and apparently growing vulnerability of his nature. The fall-out from his failed captaincy of England was heavy and disturbing.

His behaviour became ever more skittish, immature. It was though the world had seriously underplayed its understanding of how great a performer he was, and no matter that his technique and decision-making was shredding before our eyes.

When he was dropped, after a golden duck of mind-blowing irresponsibility against the Pakistanis, and advised to spend some time on re-establishing the fundamentals of his batting, he tweeted his anger, even disbelief.

He railed more passionately than any of his team-mates against the decision to the put the presence of the Wags on hold until the team move to Perth for the third Test next week. The Aussies, naturally, rubbed their hands. Here though they stopped doing that. They started wringing them, as well they might have done.

No longer was Pietersen, a hero in England in 2005 when the Ashes were regained and one of the few points of significant resistance in the subsequent whitewash here in 2006-7, a sledger's dream, a virtuoso talent but a walking accident zone when the action became most intense. For four hours here Pietersen was nothing less than a batting god.

He was straight and remorselessly precise. He received 283 deliveries and, apart from the volcanic six, hit 29 of them to the boundary ropes. Ponting appears increasingly like a man pushed to the brink by Pietersen's extraordinary assault. He could not know the scale of the criticism building around him beyond the field, but no doubt he could guess.

Former captain Ian Chappell, the local champion for whom, with his brother Greg, one of the stands in this exquisite ground is named, joined the mob.

Appalled by Ponting's defence measures in the field, Chapell declared, “If a bowler is asked to bowl with a 7-2 field he's entitled to throw the ball back to the captain and say, 'you bowl it yourself.'“

It was, quite simply, a masterpiece of batsmanship from Pietersen. Later he spoke in hushed and humble tones, stressing that his only priority was the team.

That may or may not be a new truth in the life of Kevin Pietersen but for one day, at least, English cricket had no reason to care either way. With Australia on their knees, it was surely enough that he had done something other, and maybe more, than become merely a model team-mate It was to look, for a little while at least, quite the best batsman in the world.