by Fanie Heyns

The KP factor

KP factor can be all important

SA Cricket
protea.jpg

England’s cricket selectors dropped a bombshell by omitting the controversial, South African born, Kevin Pietersen (KP) from their squad for the series' deciding third and final test against South Africa at Lord’s starting on Thursday. The match will determine which team is top ranked in the world in the test arena. 

Pietersen failed to confirm that he did not send derogatory text messages on his cell phone to the South African players, including Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers and Alviro Petersen, about his captain, Andrew Strauss, and coach, Andy Flower.
He was dropped in spite being the man of the match in the second test at Headlingley in Leeds.
Earlier on Sunday, a remorseful Pietersen publicly committed himself to all three formats for England. It was a prompt turnabout after he earlier launched an attack on the English Cricket Board and did not rule out the possibility that the third test at Lord’s would be his last.
In a personally arranged video interview on Sunday, KP retracted his request to play a full IPL season, reversed his retirement from international limited-overs cricket and withdrawn many of the comments he made in an emotional press conference (http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-south-africa-2012/content/story/576041.html) following the second Test at Leeds. 
"I want to commit to all forms of cricket for England because I love playing for England," Pietersen said. "I want to play all three forms of cricket again for England: the ODIs against South Africa in a couple of weeks and the T20 World Cup if I am selected. I want to make myself available for every single format of cricket for England,” he said.
Several former players, including Bob Willis, said the divisive KP had an adverse impact on the England dressing room because of his huge ego and his outburst about the way in which his talks with the English Cricket Board were leaked to the media.
His omission could either strengthen England as a unit or make them vulnerable.
His replacement, Johnny Bairstow, is a good player, but not in Pietersen’s league and failed in the recent test series against the West Indies as a number six batsman.
Pietersen’s absence robs England of a player that can change the complexion of a match with his aggressiveness and tremendous shot-making ability as he twice proved during the course of the second test at Headingley when he put England in control and gave them more than an outside chance of winning. 
He first scored a breath taking 149 to give England an opportunity of gaining a healthy first-innings lead. But then Imran Tahir captured three late wickets to limit that lead to just six runs.
In South Africa’s second innings KP, in the role of off spinner, captured three for 52 to wobble South Africa’s middle order batting. It gave England an opportunity of chasing down the runs in the second innings.
But Pietersen succumbed to Vernon Philander and England spent the final 60 minutes on the proverbial back foot. 
There are strong rumours that the Lord’s track might be a turner and that Graham Swann will replaceTim Bresnan to challenge the South African top order.
South Africa would be more concerned about their own form and mindset than about England’s tactics for the final test.
Since South Africa’s reintroduction into the international fold in 1991/92, they have never won a final test in English. They stumbled while 1-0 up in test series in 1994 and 2003.
If they don’t want history to repeat itself, South Africa needs to focus on winning the third test and establish a massive first-innings score with a positive mindset, instead of a defensive or reckless approach.
There is no reason why the visitors cannot win the test and the series.
With Pietersen dropped, England looks a tad vulnerable and lack experience in the middle order.
If Philander and Morné Morkel can make early inroads, there are no reason why Dale Steyn cannot rock the top and middle order with his superb swing bowling.
South Africa would like to be more accurate and clinical in terms of their batting approach than what was witnessed at Headingley.
The run out of Hashim Amla and the poor shot by Graeme Smith was a complete reversal of the focused approach seen at the Oval.
Smith will become the record holder as the most capped test captain of all time when at Lord’s. He would love to celebrate this feat by winning the test at the headquarters of test cricket and move to number one on the rankings for international test nations.
It would also be a marvellous moment for Gary (Gazza) Kirsten. He was coach of India when they won the World Cup and he was also at the helm when they became the number one ranked test nation in the world.
Gazza will realize that the Proteas only need to draw at Lord’s to win the series and become the world’s number one, but he would advise his troops to remain positive and to search for a win. 
A defensive mindset might be the arch enemy, and Gazza and Paddy Upton would certainly urge the team to push for victory instead of retreating into their shells.
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