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22 February 2024

One safari too many for Kev

By Ahmad Lala

Kevin Pietersen has come a long, long way since being that youngster who couldn't even break into the Natal first team back in South Africa. And his rise to the top has been incredible.

He scored three centuries against the Proteas in only his second ODI series. He was the hero of the 2005 Ashes for England – his Test series debut. He was the fastest man to a 1,000 and then 2,000 ODI runs.

He was the fastest player to reach 4,000 Test runs. His average is more than 50 in the five-day game and 48 in limited-overs cricket. He was then given the England captaincy last year.

He thus can be forgiven for thinking he could do anything – including trying to appoint his own England management team.

While lying on a hammock at a safari lodge in Africa sipping drinks and watching the sun set is probably not the best time to call the England Cricket Board.

But when you're calling to tell them to appoint a new coach because there's a "complete breakdown in what was an already fraught relationship" between yourself and the existing one, amounts to trying to sack your boss because you underperformed at work last year.

And for a while – and worryingly for future cricket coaches, it was a long while – it looked as if Pietersen would get his wish. Former England captains came out and said that if the ECB had to choose between KP and Peter Moores there could only be one winner. A new boss was on the way.

For Pietersen though, the time the ECB were taking to reach a decision was just too long. When there are lions and giraffes to check out you can't be having a trivial matter cloud your thoughts. Moreso, in these times of financial crises you don't want to be making too many long-distance calls from Africa.

All those long tele-conferences to sort out the situation didn't quite sit well with England's premier batsman and he resigned as captain on Wednesday. Moores followed suit soon after.

Now, without a coach and a captain, England have the small matter of an Ashes series later this year against what was meant to be a vulnerable Australia team.

They will be smiling at the news Down Under, especially after Australia managed to hang on to the No1 Test ranking for another couple of months by pulling off a remarkable victory against South Africa in Sydney.

The hero however was nearly Pietersen's old nemesis Graeme Smith. The Proteas captain walked out to bat at No11 in a bid to save the Test with a broken finger on one hand and on the other an injured elbow that had undergone an operation just two days previously.

He was not even meant to bat after doctors said he would need six weeks at least to recover after being struck by a Mitchell Johnson delivery on Saturday. He arrived at the ground with no kit, but with his team in dire trouble he walked out with borrowed equipment to a standing ovation by the usually hostile home crowd.

He lasted nearly half an hour, but with just 10 balls needed to survive to claim a draw, Johnson bowled him to secure a 103-run victory for Australia. Smith though was named Man of the Series as South Africa celebrated their 2-1 series win.