Cricket Expert & Columnist
Ashes 2013/14: Kevin Pietersen 'knuckled down and showed great diligence'
England's number four fully deserved the luck that came his way at the MCG...
Last Updated: 26/12/13 10:06am
Pietersen struck just four fours and a single six as he crept to an unbeaten 67 off 152 balls to help the tourists to 226-6 off 89 overs. In the process he became England's fourth highest run-scorer in Tests, overtaking Geoffrey Boycott.
Two days after insisting that he is batting "as well as ever", the 33-year-old's half-century is England's only fifty of the innings so far on a day on which runs were at a premium.
"I don't think they were deliberate tactics from England - I don't think they came out looking to be on a 'go-slow'," Atherton told Sky Sports News.
"It was a measure of how well Australia are bowling. It's a classy five-man attack. Ryan Harris was outstanding throughout the day, Peter Siddle was very disciplined as well, as were Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson - and then there is Mitchell Johnson, who adds that bit of X-factor.
"Pietersen really knuckled down and showed great diligence and discipline and a lot of pride in his performance; I think there was a deliberate attempt from him not to get out in ways that he got out previously on this tour and I thought that was welcome to see.
"I know that it wasn't the most swash-buckling innings that Pietersen has ever played but I thought he showed a lot of pride in his performance, which was welcome.
"He had a bit of fortune, he got dropped by Nathan Coulter-Nile at fine leg on six and he got dropped by George Bailey - a difficult chance at mid-wicket on 41 - but I reckon he deserved a bit of luck, given the way that he played.
"He really knuckled down. He gave Siddle due care and attention for once - he didn't bother chasing him outside off-stump. He played an innings full of character. I think that when you play like that you probably deserve the bits of fortune that go your way."
England appeared in solid shape at 202-4 in the evening session but the loss of Ben Stokes (14) and the recalled Jonny Bairstow (10) to in-form seamer Mitchell Johnson, tilted the day firmly in Australia's favour.
The left-armer produced another hostile spell before stumps and Atherton said that England's lower-order can expect plenty more of the same when day two begins.
"The top-order have actually managed Johnson pretty well," said the former England captain. "They've all played him ok - Johnson has got the odd top-order wicket but not that many.
"He's taken 25 wickets in the series, now, but the majority of those have been middle-order and tail-end wickets; that's where his real threat has been throughout the series.
"We saw that at the end of the day's play when he bowled five very fast overs. He picked up Stokes, he picked up Bairstow and he gave Tim Bresnan a rough old ride.
"That's where his real value is to be found. It's very difficult to expect the likes of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Monty Panesar to keep out 96mph thunderbolts."
Watch highlights of today's play from 4pm on Sky Sports 2 and On Demand from 6.30pm. The Ashes Verdict returns at 9pm ahead of Ashes Extra, before our live coverage of day two begins at 11pm.