Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Five reasons why England will regret axing Kevin Pietersen over the next few years

The axe fell on the superstar's international career yesterday - and he's why he will be sorely missed
Among the best: Pietersen will be missed by fans

It was always going to end like this. Kevin Pietersen has fallen out with every team he's played in and now England have dumped him too. It is just lucky for us it took so long. In almost a decade of international cricket, Pietersen has been the best England player of his generation.

He has made 13,797 runs in 277 matches across all formats for England. More than any other Englishman in history. More than runs, he brought wins. And more than wins, he brought adrenaline-fuelled panache.

Three Ashes victories, a World Twenty20 title and an away win in India under his belt, Pietersen was pivotal in the golden age of English cricket that already seems so long ago.

Though always controversial and never universally liked, KP will be sorely missed. Here's why.

91 not out v Australia at Bristol, 2005

It was only meant to be build-up. But by the first England v Australia ODI of the 2005 Ashes summer, cricket-fever was gripping the nation. The anticipation developed over 19 years of pain made the every game against Australia that summer a must-win. In only his second home innings for England, Pietersen asserted himself with a dazzling 65-ball 91 not out to power England to victory. It was nerveless, audacious and unlike anything England fans had seen in years. Captain Michael Vaughan declared him a “little genius”. How right he was.

129 v New Zealand at Napier, 2008

England were shambolic. With the series square against a middling New Zealand team, they were 4 for 2 when Pietersen came out to bat in the first innings. He'd barely settled before they were 36 for four. Humiliation loomed, but Pietersen dug in. Quietly and carefully he rebuilt the innings, cajoling lower order support on his way to a 208-ball 129 that carried England to 253. England won the match and series.

47 v Australia at Bridgetown, 2010

Great players like great stages to showcase their brilliance. And the final of the World Twenty20, against Australia in Bridgetown, Barbados was just what Pietersen wanted. England had never won a global tournament until then. Chasing 148 for victory, England lost an early wicket. Enter Pietersen, who cooly smashed 47 from 31 balls to give England the title. His 248 runs at 62.00 made him player of the tournament too.

149 v South Africa at Headingley, 2012

There are memorable hundreds, great hundreds and f*ck-you hundreds. Pietersen's Headingley assault was all three. In the dressing room the seeds of his current demise were being sown as the textgate scandal developed. But on the pitch Pietersen launched an even more stunning counter-attack. He flayed the world's best pace battery all over Leeds to finish the evening 149 not out. Soon after he declared “it's tough being me in the England dressing room” and was dropped for the next game.

186 v India at Mumbai, 2012

It seems unlikely now, but it wasn't long ago that Alastair Cook and the freshly “reintegrated” Pietersen - the oddest of couples - underpinned one of England's great overseas wins. After shambling to defeat in the first Test, Cook and Pietersen added 206 to give England a crucial first-innings lead in the second Test. Cook was steady while Pietersen stunning. His rapid 186 included 20 boundaries and 4 sixes and bought England enough time to seal victory. Nobody else in the English game could ever play an innings so daring.

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