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Indian Premier League 2021

When Pietersen took the new ball in an IPL match against McCullum and Gayle

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Kevin Pietersen’s IPL career had one particularly surprising occurrence – as captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) side in 2009, he took the new ball against Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle.

Sneaking in an over from a part-timer at the start of the innings was quite a popular tactic until recently in T20 cricket. Take Melbourne Renegades’ Tom Cooper for instance. A part-time off-spinner, in the 2015 Big Bash League season, Cooper took the new ball in every single game for the Renegades. Until the last of those games, he conceded 31 runs in the seven first overs he bowled, and picked up three wickets.

It was a way to sneak in an over at the start when batsmen were looking to gauge the pitch and conditions. That didn’t last long as teams started figuring this out, although it’s still used a bit by a few teams.

However, long before Cooper tried it, Kevin Pietersen, captain of the RCB side in 2009, brought himself on in the first over of an IPL game in Durban against Kolkata Knight Riders.

Was he testing two batsmen who liked pace on the ball by opening with spin? Did he possibly detect a chink related to off-spin in Gayle’s deadly T20 batting, one that hadn’t yet been exposed until then?

Whatever it was, it didn’t give critics enough time to dig into the move as McCullum slashed the first delivery straight to point to walk off for a golden duck. There, Pietersen had silenced detractors by sending back the record-holder for the highest individual score in a T20 game at the time.

Brad Hodge, another T20 beast in the early days of the format, joined Gayle but Pietersen and his off-breaks were unflustered. Just a single came off the next two balls before Pietersen turned one past Gayle’s bat to nearly have him caught behind. At the end of the over, Pietersen had figures of 1-0-3-1.

Surely it was tried again? No. It remains the only time Pietersen took the new ball in the IPL. Signing off when you are on top and all that.

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