KP's clash with Pollock costs England
Kevin Pietersen does not do quiet days at the office.
Yesterday he contrived to get caught up in a controversial run out as South Africa made England pay for their fielding lapses by winning a World Twenty20 match here at Newlands full of incident and drama.
With Pietersen life is never dull. Even when he is not reverse sweeping for six or taunting Australians, he somehow manages to be the centre of attention, this time in a collision with Shaun Pollock that led to both his and England's demise, ultimately by 19 runs.
England were always going to have to rely on Pietersen in their opening second round match after letting South Africa off the hook with seven missed chances or half chances amid a much improved bowling performance on a lively pitch. Yet a target of 155 would still not have been beyond England had the batsman who loves playing the pantomime villain in his native country not been run out in bizarre circumstances.
Pietersen, who was met by a cacophony of boos, did not do himself any favours when, after moving smoothly to 15, he dawdled while taking a single to Makhaya Ntini at short fine leg. Then, when he realised the danger, he ran down the middle of the pitch, collided with bowler Pollock, lost his bat and was just out of his ground when the ball hit the stumps before he tumbled to the floor.
The pertinent question was whether Pollock was culpable in moving across Pietersen, seemingly to try to collect the ball, and replays suggested he blocked Pietersen. Was it 'wilful obstruction', which the laws state had to be the case if Pietersen was to be reprieved?
That would be a tough call on the South African as Pietersen could have avoided him if he had run at the side of the pitch.
Skipper Paul Collingwood suggested the laws might have to be examined. He said: "KP was clearly up in the air and out of his ground but perhaps common sense might have prevailed and the umpire not given him out in circumstances like that. If the rules don't allow him to, then maybe we have to look at that.
Whether he meant to or not, Pollock got in his way but we're not going to make a big issue of it because even with that we should've won. We had opportunities and didn't take them."
Pollock said Jonty Rhodes, the South Africa fielding coach, encouraged players to move in front of the stumps to collect throws and he did so without realising he was in Pietersen's path. "I certainly didn't block him deliberately," he said.
Skipper Graeme Smith backed his man, saying: "If I'd felt Shaun had blocked him deliberately I would've called KP back, but it's a big pitch and Kevin ran down the middle of it. It was a fair dismissal."
It was the turning point of a frantic game and England now need to see off New Zealand and India in their other group matches in Durban tomorrow and Wednesday if they are to stay in the competition.
It could have been all so different had England taken their many opportunities. Paul Collingwood rang so many bowling changes that only Stuart Broad bowled consecutive overs in the first 10 of the South African innings and the home side slipped to 94 for six.
But Albie Morkel turned this game on its head in the 18th over when he hit Chris Schofield's last three balls for sixes after being reprieved two balls earlier by a mix-up involving Collingwood and Owais Shah. The captain called for the catch, Shah kept running in and the ball dropped between the two.
That was the most crucial of many lapses. Earlier Mark Boucher had been reprieved twice in consecutive balls by Jimmy Anderson and Luke Wright off Jeremy Snape.
Snape himself could not hang on to a difficult chance off Justin Kemp and Schofield got one hand to another fierce Morkel hit. Add half chances that Anderson and Pietersen misjudged and it added up to a costly display.
Wright faced just four deliveries as opener and has now lasted 11 balls for only three runs but Owais Shah was moved up the order and gave England a glimmer of hope in partnership with Matt Prior.
After Friday's result in the rugby World Cup, this has not been a good time to be an Englishman in South Africa. But at least the cricketers showed that all might not yet be lost.