There is a new KP in town and he too is a South African. Yet, unlike Kevin Pietersen, who turned out for England, Keegan Petersen represents the Proteas.
The one against India was only Petersen’s second series and he is no spring chicken at 28. Years of consistent performances in the domestic circuit, where he honed his skills diligently, has paid off for the little batter from Paarl.
As a batter, the compact Petersen is a rare pearl for South Africa. In fact, the legendary Jacques Kallis, who watched him develop, predicted he would represent South Africa for a long period.
His start in Test cricket was shaky though.
Petersen’s Test debut came against the West Indies at Gros Islet last year and his scores were 19, 7 and 18 in the two Tests at the venue.
The South African selectors kept faith in him at the crucial No 3 slot. Although he looked comfortable at the crease, scores of 15 and 17 in the first Test against India at Centurion did not reflect his talent.
Skipper Dean Elgar stood by him. “He is himself worried why he is not converting these starts. He has been among our best batters in the nets. We believe in his ability,” the captain said.
Then came the turnaround.
Petersen, fighting demons in the mind, made a polished 62 on a seaming Wanderers pitch with variable bounce in the first innings.
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He appeared compact at the crease, with footwork, balance, timing and the ability to leave deliveries outside off.
He stroked the ball on both sides - his square-drives, cover-drives and the flicks were impressive - and with this innings Petersen had ‘arrived’ in Test cricket.
His purity of technique in a game that stems from a solid defence came naturally to him, said Petersen, whose father Eric was a decent club cricketer.
And Petersen’s 28 during the chase was a vital effort in a South African win in the second Test.
Petersen, however, reserved his best for the decider. His first innings 72 on a tricky pitch at Newlands was all about fluency and balance in defence and attack. He coaxed the ball through the gaps.
His 82 in a high-pressure chase in the second innings - the manner he absorbed the pressure with compelling footwork was remarkable - earned him the Player of the Match and Player of the Series awards.
Petersen finished as the highest run-getter among both sides with 276 in a bowler-dominated series.
This KP promises to be around for long in the South African top order.
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