Ashes 2013/14: Kevin Pietersen must put natural game before survival mode
England's batsmen seem to have lost the knack of rotating the strike...
Last Updated: 14/12/13 12:24pm
Pietersen became the fifth Englishman to score 8,000 career Test runs as the tourists stuttered to 180-4 in response to Australia's 385 all out on day two of the third Test in Perth.
England's number four played watchfully but then miscued an attempted pull off Peter Siddle to fall for 19 off 59 balls and Botham told Sky Sports that Pietersen's innings highlighted the indecision in the tourists' ranks.
"It's like going from the sublime to the ridiculous," said the former all-rounder. "The players have been criticised for being too aggressive and going for the hook shots and I think they've gone totally the other way.
"Kevin Pietersen scored 19 off 59 balls - that is not Kevin Pietersen. Alastair Cook scored 72 off 153 balls. To me that's making it very hard for yourself.
"It's almost as if we've lost the knack of knocking the ball into holes and picking up singles, rotating the strike and making the field change. It's annoying for the fielders when you change three or four times an over. It seems it's all solid defence and then suddenly they cut loose and get out.
"When I see England playing like this I think back to Adelaide on the 2006/07 tour when they got 500-odd runs in the first innings and then thought they'd just scratch around. They dug a massive hole for themselves and they got bowled out for nothing and lost the game from nowhere.
"I just worry when I see them playing in survival rather than scoring mode because I don't think it's the way they play and I don't think they do it very well."
England's first innings began well as Alastair Cook (72) and Michael Carberry (43) posted 50 off 82 balls but as wickets began to fall, so did the scoring rate with the second 50 coming off 147 deliveries and the third off 98.
The tourists slipped from 85-0 to 146-4, Pietersen the fourth man out when he tried to go on the offensive against Peter Siddle only to gift Mitchell Johnson a simple catch at mid-on. Botham said the shot was one of a man frustrated at not being able to play his natural game.
"Siddle has got him more times than any other player in Test cricket - that's the 10th time today," he reflected. "I'd be getting a little bit worried about that if I was the batsman.
"If I was Kevin Pietersen, I'd be thinking 'hang on, what am I doing wrong here? It's almost as if when they put the two men in at short midwicket he wanted to play it through there - it's his way of saying 'you can't intimidate me, I'm going to dictate the terms' and it hasn't worked.
"Today he got the shot all wrong. I don't think he wanted it to go there. He was trying to go more towards midwicket and it was maybe onto him a little bit quicker. But after playing Mitchell Johnson you just wonder if he's gone down a gear because he played him really well."
England, 2-0 down in the series, will start day three 205 runs behind Australia with Ian Bell (9no) and Ben Stokes (14no) at the crease and Botham says that the remainder of England's order will have to knuckle down.
"Johnson will be really aggressive towards the tail-enders. That's what England are missing. The middle and later order batsmen, who have always done England well over the last six to eight years, are getting blown away for nothing and that makes a hell of a difference to your scorecard.
"Australia will be thinking now - right, let's get one or two wickets tomorrow and we're into them again and they don't fancy it'.
"Australia are ahead but not by a massive margin. England have still got six wickets in hand but we're used to seeing that tail perform. Hopefully that will happen again tomorrow."
Watch highlights of today's play throughout the day on Sky Sports 2, starting at 11.30am, and On Demand from 6.30pm. The Ashes Verdict is on at the earlier time of 12.30pm and our live coverage of day three gets underway at 2.25am.