Leicestershire battle after Pietersen brilliance

Leicestershire battle after Pietersen brilliance

Stumps, Day Three: Leicestershire 292 and 310/5 (Eckersley 118) lead Surrey 557 (Pietersen 355*) by 45 runs, at the Kia Oval

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Ned Eckersley made 118 to keep Leicestershire fighting at the Kia Oval.

Most peoples’ hangovers are spent wallowing in self-pity, lounging around waiting for your head to stop spinning, and the world to make sense once again. Kevin Pietersen is not most people, and while he may still be struggling in the aftermath of last night’s news to comprehend why England will not consider him for selection this summer, there was no evidence of groggy defeatism as he put on another 29 runs in five morning session overs to propel Surrey into a position of superiority.

His future at the club is unknown; conversations between Pietersen and Surrey’s director of cricket Alec Stewart about a return following his IPL stint with Sunrisers Hyderabad – which he departs for on Friday – are at an early stage, having taken place briefly before play on Day Three. Stewart, meanwhile, made it clear the county would like to retain his services for the three County Championship matches he is available for before Caribbean Premier League commitments start in late June.

How Surrey could do with a dogged Pietersen, intent on proving ECB hierarchy wrong, extending his stay. Much was expected in 2015 of a side boasting proven internationals and promising youngsters, but they are yet to record their first win of the season – though that is likely to change by close of play tomorrow – and continue to struggle to dominate matches in quite the style predicted.

In the morning after the night before, Pietersen showed them the way forward, blasting Leicestershire’s bowling around the Kia Oval with fierce determination. A straight six off Ben Raine and a slammed four over midwicket from the bowling of Rob Taylor frustrated Mark Cosgrove’s men into making a wild attempt at the stumps, in the process giving away four valuable overthrows.

In the end, Pietersen was unable to rewrite history one more time in this game, falling three runs short of recording Surrey’s highest ever top score, as Matt Dunn was caught at short leg off a Raine bouncer to leave Pietersen stranded on 355 not out.

Stewart, someone who knows Pietersen well, and missed out on the director of England cricket role, offered his thoughts on how Pietersen’s international situation should have been handled. He said: “Looking at hear and now, England have had it pretty tough for a period of time.

“It’s going to be a very tough summer, and I personally would have said: ‘Right, we’ve got a good middle order right now – Ballance, Bell and Root – are playing exceptionally well. Kevin, you are doing what we asked you to do, which is playing county cricket and score runs, if you continue to do that, should there be an injury, loss of form or reason to make a change you are very much in the frame. No guarantees. But very much in the frame.’”

He may still be required to score more runs in this game – even after Leicestershire’s innings got off to a sluggish start, when Day One hero Lewis Hill departed lbw to Dunn with no score on the board – thanks to Ned Eckersley’s hundred, lifting the visitors to an overnight lead of 45.

They are five down though, and the early exchanges tomorrow will define the outcome. Angus Robson proved suitable foil alongside Eckersley, the pair putting on 161 prior to Zafar Ansari trapping Robson lbw in the first over after lunch for 55. Unlike Eckersley, who found the ropes with regularity, Cosgrove was made to work hard for his 44, bringing up his 10,000th first-class run on the way.

Yet the spin of Ansari and Gareth Batty prevailed: Eckersley deflecting to Jason Roy; Cosgrove clipping to Rory Burns; and Neil Pinner the last to depart, lbw attempting a sweep shot. As dusk came, the visitors took on a siege mentality. It will be hard for them to come out on top here, but England are trying stubbornness as a route to defeat Pietersen, why not Leicestershire as they attempt to wake from a winless two year slumber?

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