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Pietersen double-ton adds to Australia’s pain

Kevin Pietersen doeskevin pietersenn’t do things by halves, and having spent the past 18 months without a Test century it was no surprise that he turned his comeback hundred into a double as England inflicted more pain on Australia.

By the end of the third day in Adelaide, the equation was simple – Australia’s batsmen must survive six sessions, or close to it, to salvage a draw and head to Perth at 0-0.

Not that England had declared yet, but the rain that arrived at tea, by which stage their lead was an ample 306 runs, would no doubt encourage Andrew Strauss to get his bowlers in to action as soon as possible on the fourth day. A shower or two has been forecast for Monday, with some wet weather expected on Tuesday as well, and Australia are the only possible beneficiaries if the rain plays a part.

They had to find assistance from somewhere, after spending the past two days toiling in the field for little reward. Adding to their woes, Simon Katich spent time off the field battling an Achilles tendon injury, which won’t help his chances of playing a long innings. And there were hints of reverse swing late in the day, along with sharp spin out of the footmarks when Marcus North sent down a few overs, which will make Graeme Swann a serious threat.

On the second day, Australia were thwarted by Alastair Cook, whose two centuries have defined the opening stages of this Ashes battle, but Pietersen’s dramatic return to form could become a key factor for the rest of the series. At stumps, Pietersen was unbeaten on 213, his second double-century threatening to become his highest Test score, although the weather might have put paid to his plans of overhauling his career-best 226. Ian Bell was with him, on 41, after Paul Collingwood (42) chipped in earlier in the day to add to Australia’s woes, which began with Cook’s magnificent 148.

Without question, the day belonged to Pietersen, who entered this match having not scored a Test century since the tour of the West Indies in March 2009. That in itself was almost impossible for Australian fans to believe, given the vintage touch he displayed in this innings. He was forceful through the off side, driving hard and finding gaps, and thumped through midwicket with disdain.

His so-called weakness against left-arm spin didn’t help Xavier Doherty, who struggled for impact and had 0 for 120 from 24 overs, which will increase the chances of Nathan Hauritz returning for the Perth Test. No bowler leaked more runs against Pietersen than Doherty, who was dispatched for nine fours and one monstrous six over the fence at long-off, which is a fine achievement considering the lengthy straight boundaries at Adelaide Oval.

Pietersen’s work down the ground against Doherty was outstanding, but the Adelaide spectators who remembered his 158 in the corresponding Test four years ago would have been taken back in time by his walking at the fast bowlers. Doug Bollinger is not a man who often gets charged, but the sight of Pietersen sauntering down the pitch to flick Bollinger through midwicket from outside off was something to behold.

His century, which came with a clip off his hips from his 158th delivery, brought a screeching roar from Pietersen that would have fitted into a horror movie, which was pretty much how the Australians were viewing the Test. His double-hundred came from his 283rd delivery, with a hurried single pushed to mid-off, testing the hamstring that had twinged earlier in his innings.

There was no run-out chance, though, and in truth, Australia created hardly any opportunities throughout the day. There were but two wickets for the home team to celebrate, just as there had been on Saturday. They were pleased to get rid of Cook early in the day, when he feathered a thin inside edge off Ryan Harris to Brad Haddin, who hurled himself to his right to take an athletic catch.

Cook’s dismissal left him on 450 runs from his three innings so far this series, more than any Australian batsman managed throughout the entire 2009 Ashes campaign. It was a well-deserved wicket for Harris, who was easily the best of Australia’s bowlers, although he didn’t have much competition in an attack that struggled for impact.

Shane Watson picked up Collingwood, lbw to a fullish ball that nipped in and struck him in line with off stump, but as the opening batsman, he cannot be expected to carry too much of a bowling load. Those were Australia’s only two moments of relief on another difficult day, until the rain set in. And when you cheer for wet weather, you know you’re in trouble.

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