Kevin Pietersen shrugged off a switch-hit controversy to smash an explosive 151 off 165 balls as England took charge of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
The flamboyant Pietersen plundered 16 boundaries and six sixes in his 20th Test century as the tourists piled up 460 in their first-innings before being all out just before stumps on the third day. Sri Lanka, trailing by 185 runs, were four without loss off the only over possible in their second knock at close with Lahiru Thirimanne and Dhammika Prasad at the crease.
England, who lost the first Test in Galle by 75 runs, have two days to force a series-levelling win on the wearing pitch and retain their number one ranking.
Umpires warn Pietersen
The 31-year-old was warned twice by the on-field umpires before the tea break for changing his stance to make the eye-catching but risky switch-hit – a right-hander playing a shot with a left-hander’s grip.
Pietersen played down the incident, which ended with him walking up to the umpires to clarify the warning.
“There was no altercation at all,” said the right-hander. “I was just finding out what it was and they were telling me what it was. It was just timing. No drama, no issue.”
Pietersen, who made three and 30 in the Galle Test, said his returning confidence – underlined by the switch-hit – enabled him to score briskly.
“I have felt in fantastic form so it was just a case of cashing in when you’re in good nick. The amount of cricket we now play, it doesn’t matter if we are playing one-day or Tests, it all rolls into one. I played in one-day mode today.”
The switch-hit incident marred an otherwise profitable day for the tourists, who finally came good with the bat after losing four Tests in a row in Asia this year – the 3-0 rout by Pakistan and the Galle defeat.
Pietersen said England were in a good position despite losing the last five wickets for 49 runs.
Earlier, Alastair Cook hit 94 and Jonathan Trott followed his 112 at Galle with 64, the pair sharing a second-wicket stand of 91 after England captain Andrew Strauss made 61. Pietersen, who put on 94 for the fourth wicket with Ian Bell (18), was dismissed in the final session when he was leg-before to Rangana Herath as he tried to sweep the left-arm spinner.
Herath claimed his third consecutive six-wicket haul in the series, finishing the innings with 6 for 133 from 53 overs.
“There was no altercation at all. I was just finding out what it was and they were telling me what it was. It was just timing. No drama, no issue. I have felt in fantastic form so it was just a case of cashing in when you’re in good nick.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2012.