In the wake of some ugly on-field contretemps in the recent past, Australia's players were urged by their cricket board to tone down their sledging on the field during this Ashes series. Amid all their dominance in the opening Test in Cardiff, one of their greatest triumphs would have been to keep a lid on the verbals while Kevin Pietersen was at the crease. The Australian players have a nickname they use for Pietersen along the theme of "egomaniac", though less polite.
In Test matches like this, he is asking for it. His face adorned a number of the advertising boards lining the boundary, yet his return in the middle made a mockery of his celebrity. "We have a really good chance to bat out the draw and we can make a big, big statement that this team is not going to be rolled over," he said in his newspaper column, published yesterday morning. Such positivity in the wake of daunting odds was commendable. It is Pietersen's way, but it was not immediately apparent as to whether "not rolling over" referred to the match situation or a fight he was to pick with Mitchell Johnson in the warm-up for the final day's play.
Johnson took exception to the England player hitting a throw-down back in his direction. A fracas was averted when Stuart Clark, Australia's 12th man, stepped in and led his colleague away. Pietersen may have fancied himself in a scrap with Johnson, but he needs to be careful of his other half. Johnson's fiancee is a karate champion, and she could probably floor England's finest South Africa-born batsman.
If the incident sparked Pietersen's competitive spirit, he opted not to show it on his subsequent trip to the crease. Lambasted for the sweep shot to which he fell in the first innings, he this time opted to leave a delivery from Ben Hilfenhaus which knocked out his off-stump. England were mired at 31 for three, and Pietersen's ignominious match was complete. firstname.lastname@example.org