KP poisoning England camp
The aftermath of the second test between England and South Africa, which finished in a draw at Headingley in Leeds on Monday, was dominated by Kevin Pietersen and his ongoing wrangle with the ECB about his future.
Not even an inspired declaration by Graeme Smith, which gave both teams an outside chance of victory, could sway the attention of the English media away from whether Pietersen would still be an England player in a month’s time.
The former Natalian was doing nothing to deflect the glare of attention from his situation by refusing to commit himself to a future with England – or even denying that the third test, scheduled for Lord’s on August 16, might be his last.
“The public love watching me bat,” said Pietersen, not bothering with the fripperies of false modesty, “and I love playing for England. But it’s hard for me in the changing room and the politics are difficult.”
Graeme Smith, meanwhile, downplayed any psychological gains his team may have made on the final day: “Both teams can take positives from the test match, and both sides can probably improve in certain areas. We tried to be positive and play with intent – to score 420 on a difficult pitch after being put in to bat was important for us,” Smith said.
We thought the pitch would do a lot more as the game went on but the heavy roller flattened it out. Kevin’s innings obviously got England back into the game,” Smith said.
“We would have liked to declare a bit earlier and have a ‘proper’ bowl at England but we lost a couple more wickets than we would have liked and that cost us an earlier declaration. But England have some very positive batsmen and we wanted them to have a go at the target, that’s what it was for because it would give us a chance, too,” Smith said.
Asked whether he thought his team was ahead on points going into the final test, Smith said: “We defintely have more points – we’re one-nil up.”
Andrew Strauss, meanwhile, spent the majority of his time fending off questions about Pietersen, who was Man of the Match. Such is the animosity between them, they held separate press conferences. “I’m prepared to talk about how brilliantly he played in this test match, but not about what he said or what he will do,” said the England captain.
One thing is certain: the England camp is currently a poisonous place to be.