Belfast Telegraph

James Lawton: Everyone’s nuts about the more mature Kevin Pietersen

Victory can have as many as a thousand fathers but the utterly exceptional one achieved here by England in the second Test also had a wise old grandfather.

Most remarkable of all, the role was played by Kevin Pietersen, someone not always cast as a statesman. Here, though, the fabled KP, the man of towering ability but sometimes infantile whims, not only made a massive contribution to the innings and 71-run triumph on the field.

He also closed the door, formally, on any possibility that an old English flaw might just rise up in the wake of a superb onslaught on the desperate Australian hope that somehow they could find the will and wit to win back the Ashes despite their most meagre pool of talent in 30 years.

Pietersen took the opportunity to emphasise England's new priorities when he seized on a mischievous Australian question so hungrily it might have been the most artless of long hops.

No, he said, he didn't resent the loss of the captaincy, didn't linger for a moment over the shattered possibility that it might have been under his leadership rather than Andrew Strauss's that England were enjoying one of their proudest moments on Australian soil.

You see, he remembered how ‘horrible' it was going back to the dressing room of this beautiful cricket ground four years ago when — so soon after regaining the Ashes at the Oval on a day of huge national celebration — England had to face up to the fact that they had squandered all their success and were locked into an Ashes tour promising only humiliation.

Now, it didn't matter that Strauss was the captain and he was a key lieutenant. The worst of the past had been swept away by a huge sense of team and this was a development that had given him goose bumps when he had boarded the plane at Heathrow.

Now, after two years under the leadership of Strauss, the man who was asked to heal the fractured spirit of a team many felt he should have been entrusted with before the appointments of Andrew Flintoff and himself, Pietersen knew that victory in Adelaide, so soon after the mauling of Australian spirit in Brisbane a week earlier, would not be allowed to trickle away.

This, you had to speculate, was a grown up super-cricketer embracing the realities of team sport with such enthusiasm and authority you might never have guessed than in his hands a twitter account has from time to time sounded like the noisiest, most exasperating drum in a toddler's playpen.

Sitting beside Pietersen, Strauss plainly welcomed both the public healing of old wounds and swift endorsement of the declaration he had made within minutes of Graeme Swann's fifth and decisive wicket, a beautifully flighted piece of off-spin which, had it not carried such vital consequences, might have been said to have been wasted on a victim of such modest batting credentials as tail-ender Peter Siddle.

With the clouds bearing an electric storm that might have sabotaged England's brilliant triumph still more than hour away, Strauss announced: “We cannot be lazy, we cannot be easy on ourselves.”

That might have been a phrase plucked from the speech of another England captain. It was made by the Ashes winner of 2005, Michael Vaughan, a few days after the celebrations which included a triumphal parade through the streets of the West End and a climactic drink or two at Downing Street.

As it turned out, Vaughan's plea for a team that remembered the fundamental reasons for its triumph, a team that “stayed honest,” was in ruins in hardly any longer time than it took Steve Harmison to send his first delivery directly to the slips at the Gibba a little more than a year later.

This, though, is a different England team with a different captain and, to cruelly state a reality that was apparent literally from the first over here in Adelaide, a profoundly different set of opponents. If any more proof was needed, you could see it on the face of Ricky Ponting, haunted not only by the decline of his team but, at 35, also the stark ebbing of his own batting powers. Ponting was generous enough about the level of English performance — and candid about the scale of the challenge facing him and a team that will inevitably be re-cast again for the third Test in Perth.

He singled out the batting strength represented by Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Pietersen — and agreed that on the back of Swann's persistent pressure Pietersen's last-ball dismissal of his vice captain Michael Clarke with the last ball of day four was maybe the blow that broke Australia's back.

Four years ago this place was a reproach to the name of English cricket. Now it is precisely the opposite. The glory runs all the deeper for being so widely and brilliantly shared.

Belfast Telegraph


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