Second is best for KP

  • By: Dave Tickner (Twitter: @tickerscricket)
  • Last Updated: December 4 2013, 23:24 GMT

Our cricket tipster Dave Tickner says the stats show Kevin Pietersen is the man to side with in the second Ashes Test.

Pietersen: Happy memories of Adelaide
Pietersen: Happy memories of Adelaide

After England's 381-run thrashing at the hands of a Mitchell Johnson-inspired Australia in Brisbane, it was hard to argue with the reaction of layers who suddenly made the hosts heavy favourites for the series.

So total and brutal was Australia's victory, so impressive - after the first two sessions of day one - their cricket, that it felt like a sea change in the never-ending battle between these two sides.

And when Jonathan Trott then left the tour with a stress-related illness, it was easy to think all was lost for England.

Suffice to say this is not the case.

While only three teams have come back from losing the first Test to win in Australia, there are plenty of reasons to believe England have it in them to become the fourth.

Just as one defeat does not suddenly make England a bad side, so too one victory - their first this year - does not make Australia world-beaters.

It will be difficult for England to regain a foothold in this series. Difficult, but not impossible.

For they have done it before. Theirs is a shocking record in the opening match of a series, especially away from home, but there is almost always a powerful response in the following match.

Indeed, England boast a startling record in second Tests since Andy Flower took over in 2009. They have won 13, drawn four and lost only one of 18 second Tests. And even that defeat, to Pakistan in the UAE, was a game England dominated until the disastrous fourth innings when they were rolled for 72 chasing just 144 for a series-levelling victory.

And England don't just win second Tests when the force is already with them. In nine second Tests following an opening defeat or draw, England have won five and drawn three. Only once under Flower have England failed to match or improve upon a first Test result in the second.

And those 13 wins have not come by small margins, either. They have been crushing victories: four by an innings; five by eight, nine or 10 wickets; two by over 300 runs; one by over 200 and another by over 100.

Even England's currently underperforming batting line-up has a good record in recent second Tests. Not since that disaster against Pakistan have they been bowled out for under 300 once they've got a game under their belts. Their second Test scores since that defeat are (most recent first): 349/7d, 361, 287/5d, 354, 465, 58/0, 413, 130/4, 425, 111/1, 428, 97/2, 460.

Another big statistical tick for England is the likely return of Tim Bresnan, whose stature - as is so often the case - has grown in his absence from the side. He will bolster the batting and is far more suited to the third-seamer role than any of the three giants who fought over that spot in Brisbane.

England have won 15 of Bresnan's 21 Tests. They have won the same number of the 36 he has missed since his debut in 2009.

Bresnan also has a superb record in his five Tests against Australia (W4 D1) with 21 wickets at 24 apiece. Sky Bet's 4/1 for him to be top bowler is well worth a look.

The drop-in pitch at Adelaide has been the subject of much speculation.

Putting too much store in pre-match pitch reading can be a foolish pursuit, but most reports expect a flat but dry surface. That is exactly the kind of surface on which England will be most confident against Australia, especially with Bresnan and his reverse-swing skills back in the mix.

While the draw is favourite because of conditions expected to favour the batsmen, the brittle nature of Australia's line-up (their day-one collapse in Brisbane should not be forgotten) and England's ongoing struggle to reach 400 means it's there to be taken on. Australia, with their tails up, look a perfectly fair bet at 7/4 with Betfred, but England are surely even better value at Paddy Power's 11/4.

But with an England win here boosting our ante-post hopes, I'll steer clear of putting further eggs in that basket despite the temptation.

Instead, the man I want to side with is Kevin Pietersen. Because no one man better exemplifies England's propensity for startling second-Test improvement than their mercurial number-four batsman.

The numbers are extraordinary. In 30 second Tests, Pietersen averages 63.70 with nine centuries. Things get even better for pre-match betting purposes, where the first innings is key. In his first innings of second Tests, KP's average climbs to a frankly outrageous 78.37, with his 2273 runs coming at a strike-rate of better than 70 per 100 balls.

Think of Pietersen's finest Test innings for England, and you'll be astonished by just how many of them came in the first innings of the second Test. His three 2012 masterclasses, at Colombo, Leeds and Mumbai, all fit the bill. As do his 158 and 227 at this venue in 2006 and 2010. And his 226 against West Indies at Leeds, and his 142 against Sri Lanka at Edgbaston, and the 144 against India in Mohali. A wide range of conditions, a wide range of series situations, but so often the result is the same.

In all, he has made nine centuries in 29 first innings of second Tests. He has top-scored in three of last six and, five of last 11. He's been the leading runscorer in three of the last five away from home, where his recent second Test, first innings record reads: 73, 186, 151, 14, 227, 45, 31, 144.

Pietersen's efforts in second Tests have seen him named man of the match six times in all, including last time at Adelaide, and three of his last six. Pietersen is also just 69 runs short of 8000 Test runs, a landmark that certainly won't hurt his chances of being named man of the match.

There is essentially no market where Pietersen doesn't represent value based on the stats built up over a sizeable study period. He is 4/1 to be England's top first-innings runscorer, 5/1 for a century in that innings and 14/1 to be named man of the match. His match runs can be bought at 89 with Sporting Index, and his ton-ups at 16. Ladbrokes offer 5/6 that he makes 34 or more in the first innings.

All are worthy destinations for your hard-earned. I'll split stakes across a market that can't be scuppered by others - KP to score a century - and one that can - the man of the match.

  • The match starts at 0001 GMT on Thursday and is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.

  • Posted at 1635 GMT on 02/12/2013.


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