Against Muttiah Muralitharan, one of the greatest bowlers to play the game, Kevin Pietersen unleashed an audacious switch-hit that went deep into the Edgbaston stands – an effort beyond anyone’s imagination at the time.
Back in 2006, the love affair between English cricket and Kevin Pietersen was still very much in its honeymoon period. As we swooned over our adopted hero’s ability to change games in an instant – dazzling us with shots we’d never even imagined – he responded in kind, displaying his devotion by etching a symbol of our love into his forearm. He had just given us the most prized gift we could have imagined – one we had waited 18 long years for – and we loved him for it. These were happy days indeed.
Pietersen had opened the English summer with a blistering 158 at Lord’s and as he set about decimating Sri Lanka’s attack for the second time in as many matches, it appeared this indomitable force was capable of just about anything. The previous summer he had continually taken the attack to Shane Warne and Pietersen was intent on repeating the treatment against Muttiah Muralitharan.
As he reached his century – his fourth in 13 Tests – with a trademark whip through mid-on, he exploded in celebration, hurling his batting to the floor as the adoring crowd screamed and hollered. But he was only getting started.
The field spread but Pietersen continued to attack, launching Murali to the boundary with an inside-out cover drive over extra cover before the crowning moment of his scintillating innings: with a quick switch of the hands, Pietersen bent down on one knee and scythed a low full toss over the cover boundary for six. Switch-hits are taken for granted these days, but the audacity of the shot, against perhaps the greatest bowler the world has ever seen, was something never witnessed before.
Relationships may have soured in recent times as communication has broken down, but whether we can patch things up or not, we’ll always have Edgbaston.
First published in November 2012.