To the surprise of few, Kevin Pietersen has conceded he would rather be locked in a death-or-glory battle with aggressive fast bowlers the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Morne Morkel than in a war of attrition with his Test match nemesis, Peter Siddle.
Pietersen, the swashbuckling former England batsman whose fallibility against Siddle played a significant role in England’s thumping Ashes loss to Australia last summer, has admitted that he simply doesn’t have the patience to outlast his rival’s ‘robotic’ and ‘suffocating’ tactics.
Siddle dismissed Pietersen 10 times during his 104-Test career, more than any other opposition bowler, and the Australian has confirmed that the plans put in place in Ashes Test matches centred on the South African-born batsman’s well-documented ego.
But in his newly released autobiography ‘KP’, Pietersen claims he knew precisely what Siddle and the Australians were trying to achieve every time he went out to bat – he simply kept (quite literally) playing into their hands.
“Give me a war with Mitchell Johnson or Morne Morkel any day of the week,” Pietersen writes.
“Siddle bowls with the patience of a robot. Just very tight lines.
“I dig in and tell myself that, okay, this will be ugly but I'll get through it.
It takes so long to build the numbers (runs), though.
“He never seems to gamble. He's never bowling for the jackpot.
“The longer it goes on the more shots I try to make. Maybe if I start to hit a few big numbers they will take him away?
“Then the valve pops: I see a ball and have to try something.
“The next thing I know, I'm taking a walk.
“Time after time he does me. I know what he is going to do.
“He does it. Suffocates me.
“I clearly remember saying to myself after the tenth or eleventh time Sids got me, this cannot happen again.
“I have to be more patient and beat his game."
For his part, Siddle attributed his remarkable success against England’s most damaging batsman of the modern era to the fact that Australia and England met so regularly in the Test arena (10 times in the space of 12 months in 2013-14) and were therefore able to formulate comprehensive plans.
Indeed, the only player Siddle has dismissed more often than Pietersen in Test cricket is former England vice-captain and wicketkeeper Matt Prior (11 times) – who is also the target of some of the most stinging criticism in Pietersen’s book.
While Siddle politely declines to suggest that Pietersen became his ‘bunny’ during their many Test battles, he knew that whenever the aggressive middle-order batsman made his way to the wicket that he (Siddle) would soon have the ball in his hand.
“It was our plan, and that’s all it was,” Siddle told cricket.com.au, hosing down suggestions he was able to conjure some sort of spell over Pietersen’s normally flashing bat.
“An ideal plan, we put fielders in the right positions and I bowled consistently where we wanted me to bowl and we got the wickets.
“You enjoy bowling to some of the best players in the world (and) out of their (England’s) line-up, he’s one of their best players.
“It’s always a challenge, and his ego and just the way he goes about the game just brings the best out of my game, to get stuck in and have a go and try and get his wicket.”
And while Pietersen acknowledges he would prefer to be facing the fire and fury of Australia’s Johnson or South Africa’s towering Morkel, Siddle also admits that it’s more fun for him – and for fans watching – to be locking horns with an aggressive batsman.
And few in world cricket have been as consistently attacking and combative as Pietersen, who will return to Australia in December to begin his stint with the Melbourne Stars in the KFC T20 Big Bash League.
“It does get a bit boring when they’re knocking it on the head,” Siddle said.
“It’s no fun for anyone, whether it’s us out in the field or the spectators at the ground.
“I’ve had some great battles with KP.
“There’s been plenty of times he’s pulled me away for a six or got me away a couple of times.
“But I’ve probably got him enough to be on top.
“Some of the wickets, especially to plans you’ve set up, you’ve put fielders in certain positions, he flicks it there and you get a catch, it’s great for me to get his wicket.
“But as a captain, to have his plans and behind the scenes, the coaches, everything we’ve worked at to get this one bloke out and we get him that way it shows our plans work and we’re heading in the right direction.”
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