Kevin Pietersen’s ‘reintegration’ as an England player may still be a work in progress, but his team-mates are convinced they have taken a major step forward together in Mumbai.
In the scorebook, Pietersen’s frenetic 23 towards an England total of 426 all out at the Brabourne Stadium in the stalemate against India A at the start of their Test tour here was no more than an acceptable statistic.
Others made more substantial contributions, notably captain Alastair Cook (119) and Samit Patel (104).
Once it became clear victory would not be possible inside three days, priorities were exclusively to ensure best preparation for the four-Test series ahead and England duly settled for the moral success of a first-innings lead of 57, before their hosts closed out the contest on 122-4 second time round.
England have two more opportunities to fine-tune their game before the first Test on November 15.
Sadly, however, Steven Finn is highly unlikely to take part in at least the first of those fixtures – a three-day match starting against Mumbai A tomorrow – as he undergoes a “rehabilitation programme”, after pulling up with an injured thigh with just four overs under his belt.
But as England assessed the pros and cons of their first outing on what is sure to be a tough tour, it fell to James Anderson to point out the advance made with ‘project Pietersen’.
First slip Anderson, who spent significant time fielding in close proximity to his returning team-mate at gully, echoed the observation of his fellow seam bowler Tim Bresnan, that Pietersen’s first match back, since being dropped for the Lord’s Test and the subsequent delay in the award of his central contract, amounted to ‘business as usual’.
“All the stuff that’s gone on, it’s all well and good saying ‘we’re going to draw a line under it’,” said Anderson, portrayed in many quarters as one of the senior players with whom the mercurial batsman needed to make his peace.
“But I think that’s actually happened, and it just seems to be back to normal in the dressing room and on the field.”
While Pietersen needs a long innings before the first Test, Patel’s confidence is bolstered already and there is good reason to assume he is being pencilled in to bat at No 6 and act as a second spin option against India.
“I thought he was outstanding in this game, showed great temperament and just looked calm and controlled,” said Anderson. “He played at his own tempo – ‘Cooky’ at the other end, playing at his, which is very different to Samit’s – and I thought they complemented each other very well.
“He’s a very good all-round player. He plays spin very well. He was very controlled and composed and that’s what you need in these conditions.
“Often the crowd can be noisy out here, and there are a lot of distractions and pressure created by men around the bat. That’s what you have to overcome.”
Scoreboard: Page 22.