TALK of guarding against complacency dominated the build-up to last week’s first Test but the manner of England’s defeat suggested they fell into the very trap they were desperate to avoid.
The senior batsmen have all scored prolifically enough over the last two years for us to label last week’s debacle in Dubai a freak occurrence, but when the competition for places isn’t fierce it suddenly becomes more tempting to rest on your laurels.
Anybody can cop a good one early on, but an unhealthily high percentage of the dismissals in the first Test were avoidable, with Kevin Pietersen’s shot selection in the second innings particularly ill informed.
One of the great strengths of England’s top order lies in their ability to play the situation. The likes of Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell are all conscientious types, who will knuckle down when necessary but are prepared to sacrifice their wickets when quick runs are required.
Pietersen, for all his match-winning capabilities, operates only in one mode and when that unwavering determination to attack at all costs sees him hole out to the only fielder on the leg-side boundary with his team already staring at an innings defeat, you can’t help but wonder if the penny will ever drop.
He averages 64 since the beginning of last winter’s Ashes series in Australia, so he holds a pretty powerful argument to suggest he is more than worth his place in the team. But a closer look at his scores over that period indicates England are getting all or nothing from him at the moment.
Perhaps it would have been an idea to select a couple of hungry, young batsmen to go on this tour to remind the established guys that their places are not set in stone. All we have in reserve out in Abu Dhabi is Ravi Bopara, whose role this winter looks likely to be confined to bowling some medium pace dobbers in the nets.
Pietersen is a supreme talent and his ability to change the course of a match in a short space of time may yet reverse the balance of power in this series, but a repeat of last week’s carefree approach will be of no benefit to him, nor the team.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer and captain of Warwickshire who made 17,211 first-class career runs.
KEVIN PIETERSEN | LAST 13 TESTS
4 & DNB AUS Brisbane, Nov 2010
227 & – AUS Adelaide, Dec 2010
0 & 3 AUS Perth, Dec 2010
51 & – AUS Melbourne, Dec 2010
36 & – AUS Sydney, Jan 2011
3 & – SRL Cardiff, May 2011
2 & 72 SRL Lord’s, Jun 2011
85 & – SRL Southampton, Jun 2011
202* & 1 IND Lord’s, Jul 2011
29 & 63 IND Trent Bridge, Jul 2011
63 & – IND Edgbaston, Aug 2011
175 & – IND Oval, Aug 2011
2 & 0 PAK, Dubai, Jan 2012