Wherever Kevin Pietersen has gone, he has always been a stand-out player. Here we look at his humble beginnings, where he played for Natal ‘B’ and Natal ‘A’ and batted at No9 and bowled off-spin.
And look at his performance against Nasser Hussain’s 1999 tourists. Back then, Pietersen will have made England stand up and take notice of a special talent.
The Pietermaritzburg-born batsman will return to his country of birth this week, albeit for a brief period, to play in the Momentum Cricket Sixes Invitational Tournament in Johannesburg.
Most will remember the veteran right-hander’s superb 227 against Australia in Adelaide in 2010, while others continue to cherish the outstanding 202 not out orchestrated against India at Lord’s in 2011 – among several other historical innings. Few, however, will recall several smaller performances – more than a decade earlier – that afforded Pietersen a few modest opening steps on the lengthy path to greatness.
Here, SA Cricket magazine takes a trip down memory lane to recollect his three best performances from his days as a burgeoning all-rounder in South African domestic cricket.
UCB Bowl, February 1999
The year was 1999 and the competition the UCB Bowl – Division One. KwaZulu-Natal B were in dire need of a win at Kingsmead, but were thwarted by staunch opposition in Northerns B, who forced a draw in front of a sparse and disappointed home crowd.
Pietersen, however, took consolation in twin personal bests. His first-class career was still in its fledgling stage, so first-innings figures of three for 22 and a patient 60 in the middle order proved ample for the individual – but collectively insufficient.
Standard Bank Cup, December 1999
Pietersen’s ability with the ball stood at the fore of KwaZulu Natal’s key limited-overs fixture against Boland in Paarl shortly before the turn of the century. A formidable host unit, featuring fringe Proteas cricketers Steven Palframan, Justin Ontong and Louis Koen – and Indian import Praveen Amre – made for a real challenge. The off-spinner was brought into the attack late in the piece, and soon succeeded where a slew of seamers had struggled.
Pietersen found genuine purchase off the Boland Park pitch, ensuring Palframan and Ontong a duck each. Unable to secure a spot in a visiting top and middle order lined with the experienced Andrew Hudson, Mark Bruyns, Doug Watson, Errol Stewart, Dale Benkenstein and Jon Kent, Pietersen pushed for higher honours late in the innings with a small, standalone cameo that ostensibly brought promotion later that season.
Tour match, December 1999
An air of foreboding ran through England’s tour fixture against KwaZulu-Natal shortly before the arrival of South Africa’s festive season. Host captain Benkenstein’s triumph at the toss saw the tourists bowl first – and cop almost 94 long overs in the field amid the Durban humidity. All-rounder Kent struck a sound century, while Pietersen complemented with a telling half-ton – and took a particular liking to the lack of turn from spinner Phil Tufnell and shoddy lengths produced by fast bowler Andrew Flintoff.
England returned the favour on a relatively flat pitch, moving to 421 all out on the back of a fine ton from captain Nasser Hussain, but not before Pietersen had removed the stalwart Michael Atherton, Michael Vaughan, Chris Adams – and ultimately Hussain. With a convincing first team debut in the bag, and perhaps a penchant for the Pommie mentality, Pietersen’s potential had all but graduated to genuine substance.
Report by Jonhenry Wilson