AND now, the time is near, England have to face the final curtain... eek. Not Frank Sinatra, not now at the climax of the crucial third Test at Newlands, where England face defeat on the final day.
No, if it’s “My Way” echoing through the stands as the table cloth of cloud creeps over Table Mountain, it has to be sung by Kevin Pietersen, who got out last night just when his adopted nation needed him most.
The old batting sage “Sir” Geoffrey Boycott is tired of KP’s eternal anthem. When he got out last night, taking any gloss off a stirring opening partnership of 100 between captain Andrew Strauss (46) and Alastair Cook (55), the chase for 466 in 146 overs was rendered hopeless.
England resumed on 132-3 and nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson lasted for a long-than-expected 45 minutes before he was brilliantly caught off his boot by Ashwell Prince off the eternally fortunate South African spinner Paul Harris.
Capetonian Englishman Jonathan Trott is on 36 and has been joined by Paul Collingwood, who knows a thing or two about stubborn resistance. England are 153-4 with Collingwood surviving a dodgy catch on review off his first ball. Phew. But this will be over by tea-time and we'll go to The Wanderers on Thursday for the decider with the four-match series locked at 1-1.
This is what former Test batsman Boycott had to say about petulant Pietersen’s problems after scores of 0 and 6 at Newlands: “He’s walking at the ball instead of taking a big stride. By the time he plays at the ball, he’s lunging at it, falling over. If you watch carefully, it makes him play across the line. His right side comes round. His right arm comes round.
“I can explain it but he’ll probably take no notice of anybody. He just says: ‘That’s the way I play,’ and then carries on. It’s nonsense. If you’re 6ft 4in and as talented as him, you have to use that stride properly, you don't shuffle. He stands up with a stiff left leg, walking all over it. It’s a very poor defensive shot.
“Getting booed is no excuse for not playing forward. Coming back after his operation is no excuse. If he’d listen, it would help. I love him to bits. He has all the talent in the world. But he never listens to anybody. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Boycott got in a real stew on the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s television coverage when Pietersen was out lbw last night. “No, no, no,” he shouted, furious after KP had survived one lbw dismissal on a review only to be rapped plum in front a couple of balls later by a delirious Dale Steyn.
As Collingwood and Trott fiddle while England’s 1-0 series lead burns after the heavy roller was on this morning (above), Pietersen sits in the dressing room with no role to play. The Sun said he threw beer on the fans after his first innings failure. England deny emphatically that he did anything of the sort. But the pressure is on. It’s not as if he isn’t our best batsman, our highest ranked Test run-getter.
At Centurion, where he ran himself out suicidally on 81 and nearly cost England the draw, he looked comfortable when all about him were jumpy in both innings. At Kingsmead, he looked supremely confident but never produced the big one as England won by an innings and 98 runs.
In the field, he is the least competent of England’s fielders. And with Paul Collingwood suffering with his bad back and dislocated finger, he’s been thrown the ball for a couple of overs of off-spin but never looks like the change bowler he was as a youngster in Durban, where they considered him a bit of an all-rounder.
Anybody else showing his apparent lack of focus, his ability to get out to bad shots, his lacklustre performance in the field, would be in the firing line, the sacrificial lamb before the decider at The Wanderers next Thursday. But not KP. Not against the land of his birth.
As Boycott says, we love him to bits. But please KP, offer us hope for Johannesburg, or this series is going down the u-bend.