Pietersen relives the Test 200 that almost wasn't
On his 41st birthday, enigmatic ex-England batsman Kevin Pietersen takes us inside the dressing rooms for his famous Adelaide double ton
It was the summit of a Test tenure that ultimately yielded more peaks than troughs.
The single biggest score by an England player – in more than 130 years of Ashes contests – at a venue that has hosted some of that rivalry's best remembered contests, and its most infamous flashpoint.
But years later, Kevin Pietersen revealed that his own double century at Adelaide Oval in 2010 might never have come to pass if he'd got his way in the visitors' dressing room.
Pietersen's 227 from 308 balls faced – the fastest double hundred posted for England in 351 Tests against Australia – was the high watermark of his decade-long international career, and paved the way for England's sole Ashes series win on Australian soil over the past 30 years.
However, he admits that he would not have gone to the wicket midway through day two of that Test as England exerted their dominance if teammate Paul Collingwood had accepted Pietersen's offer to bat above him in the order.
Having spent more than six hours fruitlessly waiting to bat during England's second innings of the drawn opening Test at the Gabba less than a week earlier, Pietersen was developing a severe dose of "pad rash" as Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott combined for another epic second-wicket stand in Adelaide.
The then 30-year-old, who months earlier had been axed from England's limited-overs team and arrived in Australia not having scored a Test ton in 21 months, then spent a further three hours watching the same pair compile a 173-run second-wicket partnership against an impotent home attack.
At which point he felt he needed a break to freshen up, both physically and mentally.
"The one thing I do remember is asking Paul Collingwood – because we had batted for ages at Brisbane, Cook and Trott batted for as long as anything and I had pad rash for about seven hours there," Pietersen recalled in an interview with cricket.com.au in 2016.
"Then Cook and Trott were doing exactly the same in Adelaide, and about five minutes before I had to go and bat I said to Colly, 'Mate, can we just swap over here. I've been watching, I've watched most balls and I'm just on it, can we swap?'. And he was like, 'No'.
"And I was like, 'Cool, no worries'."
Within minutes of his suggestion being rebuffed, Trott chipped a catch to mid-wicket and Pietersen – who had scored 158 in his previous Test appearance at Adelaide in 2006 – strutted to the middle with a surfeit of pent-up energy and a head full of steam.
Much of it initially directed towards Tasmania spinner Xavier Doherty, who Pietersen later claimed Australia had named for that campaign "just to get at me" due to perceptions he could be vulnerable against left-arm orthodox bowling.
"I was like, 'Right Doherty, you're going to get it here'," said Pietersen, who also told a media conference after his match-defining innings that he found waiting to bat more taxing than the seven hours he spent at the crease in typically roasting Adelaide summer heat.
"I'm going to come down and lambaste you."
The South Africa-born batsman charged down the pitch to the first delivery he received from Doherty (just the second ball of his innings), slapped the next one to the point boundary and then advanced again to the third only to see his miscued leading edge float perilously between two Australia fielders at extra cover and point.
"I was like, 'No, no. I need to wind my neck in here, I need to engage'," Pietersen recalled.
"And I batted pretty well."
"Pretty well" in the batsman's words was translated by veteran BBC commentator and former England fast bowler Jonathan Agnew as "the best that I have seen Pietersen bat".
"If he always batted like this, no-one would ever get him out," Agnew wrote of the innings that announced Pietersen's return as a Test match batting force.
By the time he reached his first Test century in almost two years, it wasn't only Doherty and his part-time spin counterpart Marcus North that Pietersen had fixed in his cross hairs.
Pace pair Doug Bollinger (recalled for that Test in place of Mitchell Johnson, who was omitted from the starting XI) and Pietersen's regular nemesis Peter Siddle also found themselves in the firing line.
"Peter Siddle decided to put three men on the boundary and start bouncing me," the England batter wrote in his 2015 book 'Kevin Pietersen on Cricket'.
"So I stood like a baseball player, telling myself I'm not going to fall over and die here. I'm not just going to let you dictate terms and bowl bouncers at me.
"I'm going to try and crack you for six every single ball.
"There's only going to be one winner here, and I'm not backing down.
"So I smashed him for a couple of fours, a confrontation that got me in the zone, and I kept on going."
The exultant 'yeeess' that pealed from Pietersen when he tucked Ryan Harris to fine leg to reach the 17th Test hundred of a career that would ultimately yield 23, and then the even more demonstrative fist pump when he snuck a single to mid-off later that day to notch 200 betrayed the innings' personal significance.
Stung by getting dropped for the first time since earning selection for his adopted country in 2004, Pietersen had returned briefly to South Africa prior to that Ashes tour to seek out his long-time coach and mentor Graham Ford.
Within the space of a handful of throw downs in the practice nets, Ford immediately detected that his former protégé was no longer getting his head over the ball when batting.
The technical change that ensued was partly responsible for Pietersen's breakthrough innings, but his enduring fondness for the Adelaide Oval was also a significant factor.
When England won by an innings and 71 runs at Adelaide in 2010 to set up their 3-1 series win and retention of the famous terracotta urn, the venue had not yet been transformed into the world-leading stadium that pioneered the introduction of pink ball Test cricket in 2015.
And while Pietersen's fondness for Adelaide is partly based on its pitch that he assessed as "fair and evenly paced – magnificent to bat on with no swing or seam" as well as a bias framed by his own success at the stadium, it's the Oval's proximity to the city and accommodation that appeals to England's fifth-highest Test runs scorer.
"It's my favourite ground, there's no other ground that I love more than the Adelaide Oval," he said.
"I just love that scoreboard, I actually really enjoy Adelaide and it probably helps that (I've) got runs but I've also got runs at Lord's or The Oval or a lot of the other grounds around the world.
"Maybe I just like this (riverbank) hotel and the walk to the ground, that freedom and space so even when you wake up in the morning and you put on your gear, you're not in a bus, engaging straight away.
"You've got that time to just feel your way into the day's play, and also at the end of the day's play, you also have that time to feel your way back to the hotel and just have your own space.
"I like having my own space, I like being by myself, I like thinking.
"I'm a very deep thinker when I'm by myself and I like to engage in a lot of things away from the game.
"I don't like being in a team environment, in a bubble all day, every day."
This story was first published on May 17, 2017
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
Dec 8-12: First Test, The Gabba
Dec 16-20: Second Test, Adelaide Oval
Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
Jan 5-9: Fourth Test, SCG
Jan 14-18: Fifth Test, Perth Stadium