If Kevin Pietersen is truly locked in battle with England’s middle-order for an Ashes berth this summer, then round one has gone to the incumbents.
After Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Joe Root each delivered in excess of 100 runs in last week’s drawn Test against West Indies in balmy Antigua, it was over to the 34-year-old batsman, who believes he can force his way back into the international XI, to respond with runs in chilly Cardiff.
But instead it was his Surrey team-mates Kumar Sangakkara, on debut, and Steven Davies who shone, elegantly plundering unbeaten centuries to get their season off to the perfect start at Glamorgan, reaching 363 for three as Pietersen was forced to settle for a 23-ball 19 on his return to county cricket.
Davies, who resumes on Monday with 109 to his name alongside Sangakkarra on 112 and insists Surrey now intend to bat just the once in this match, has every faith in Pietersen playing for his country again. “Kevin has been great at Surrey,” he said. “I have no doubts in my mind he will get the runs he wants and needs – the guy is class.”
For the Glamorgan seamer Craig Meschede, the man who ruined Pietersen’s first championship match since June 2013 when he teased him into a slip catch, it was not even his most prized scalp. “My maiden first-class wicket was Sachin Tendulkar. It’s nice to add KP to my number. He probably ranks second,” he said. “The ball nibbled a bit and he pushed at it. He’d got agitated.”
Such impatience, coming after four dot-balls in a row, suggests the conversion back from Twenty20 specialist is still a work in progress. Pietersen had joined Sangakkara at the crease at 2pm when Zafar Ansari, who had earlier put on 104 with fellow opener Rory Burns, was trapped lbw by Andy Carter for 48 to leave Surrey 111-2.
The 37-minute stand that followed gave a taster of what lies in store for those who pitch up this summer to watch Surrey.
Sangakkara protected his junior partner at first, driving and pulling the left-armer Graham Wagg for effortless fours before pinching the strike off the last ball of the over. Next ball, Carter was hit through the covers. Pietersen responded, clipping the same man off his pads through midwicket in his following over, before punishing a wide half-volley through extra.
A lucky escape came on 11 when Pietersen top-edged Wagg over the wicketkeeper for four, before the left-arm spinner Dean Cosker – a man who has had Pietersen’s number on three previous occasions in county cricket – was dispatched back over his head for a fourth boundary. But emboldened by the early success then maddened by Meschede’s nagging line, he went hard at the ball and gave it away.
Had free entry not already removed the option, the 2,300-strong crowd at the Swalec Stadium could have few grumbles given the exhibition they were treated to thereafter from the other world-class batsman on show, who found a more patient ally in Davies for an unbroken stand of 213 from 51 overs.
And after Davies had edged between wicketkeeper and slip on 39, it was a chanceless one. A flicked four through midwicket off the seamer David Lloyd took Sangakkara to his half-century from 83 balls by tea, with Surrey 227 for three. The evening session was then a procession of milestones.
Davies’ half-century, the second bonus point and the 100 partnership were all secured in the 71st over, with Surrey passing 300 in the 83rd. A square-drive past point made it three figures for the Sri Lankan, his 51st in first-class cricket, with his partner following suit four overs before the close when he drove Lloyd down the ground for four. Both were patient and both delivered. Neither man got agitated.
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