Dec 132012

Kevin Pietersen made a vital half-century, India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 1st day, December 13, 2012Kevin Pietersen had to hold back on his natural free-flowing game on a very slow pitch © BCCI

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Features : A day of anti-cricket
Features : Mixed results for India’s gamble
Report : Pietersen leads England on tough pitch
Players/Officials: Kevin Pietersen | Joe Root | Ishant Sharma
Matches: India v England at Nagpur
Series/Tournaments: England tour of India

Kevin Pietersen described the Nagpur pitch as “the toughest I have played Test cricket on” after the first day of the final Test against India.

Pietersen top-scored for England with 73 out of 199 for 5 but, on a day when England were unable to score off 483 of the day’s 582 deliveries, Pietersen admitted that the slow pace of the pitch had made batting a real struggle. He remained confident that England were well-placed in the game, however, suggesting the balance of their attack – with two seamers and two spinners – would prove crucial over the remainder of the game.

India utilised four spinners on the first day, but the only seamer in their side, Ishant Sharma, was by far the most dangerous of the bowlers and dismissed both England openers, Nick Compton and Alastair Cook.

“It is tough and it is the toughest wicket I have played Test cricket on in terms of trying to play strokes,” Pietersen said. “I think we have done okay at 200 for 5 but what the wicket is going to do from now on, I haven’t got a clue because it looks pretty similar to what it did when we started the day. The key today was to try and bat for as long as possible because I don’t think that wicket is getting any better.

“My guess is as good as anyone’s in this room as to what that wicket is going to do. I don’t know, but goodness, it is slow.

“I think we are in a position of strength, having two seamers. I found Ishant Sharma incredibly difficult to play today. All I know is that scoring was incredibly hard, especially against Ishant, so we hope Tim Bresnan and Jimmy Anderson can do us a really good job.”

Pietersen was also impressed by the performance of Joe Root. The 21-year-old, winning his first Test cap, reacted to challenging circumstances with a composed innings that revived England’s hopes of setting a competitive first innings total. England slipped to 139 for 5 not long after Root came to the crease, but did not lose another wicket for the rest of the day as he and Matt Prior added 60 runs in 30 overs. On a pitch that may well deteriorate sharply, the time occupying the crease could prove almost as important as the runs scored.

“Joe was brilliant,” said Pietersen. “He is his own man. He played some lovely cricket shots. He has got a good head on his shoulders. I always say never judge anyone after a couple of hours batting for England but he showed signs that he will have a very good Test career.

“He didn’t need too much help. He came in there, and was scoring freely. He’s a good little player and a lovely man as well. He’s a good human being.”

Pietersen accepted that it had not been the most entertaining day for spectators and suggested that the slow pace of play would have persuaded many to stop watching long before the close.

“The Indians think that is the kind of wicket they can produce to pull the series back,” he said. “The viewers have got no interest in what I’ve got to say because they switched off four or five hours ago. It is an incredible challenge for the lads to see what we can get out of this over the next four days. We’ve had some incredible challenges over the last two or three years.”

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