Kevin Pietersen 58 off 41 Balls vs. Kings XI Punjab: The Comeback That Never Was

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Kevin Pietersen 58 off 41 Balls vs. Kings XI Punjab: The Comeback That Never Was
Saurabh Das/Associated Press

Sometimes, even as a journalist, you can't help but wish for something to happen the way you want it to.

You want to write about something the way you anticipated it, or perhaps also because of your desire to describe a happy ending; a sportsman returning to form against all odds, defying his critics.

For much of his 41-ball innings on Sunday against the Kings XI Punjab, Kevin Pietersen provided that hope to journalists eager to pen a remarkable comeback.

Ahead of their last game of the season, the Delhi Daredevils' position at the bottom of the table was already assured, following a miserable campaign that included just two wins in 13 matches.

But if Pietersen signed off with a vintage knock, especially after all that had transpired following England's 5-0 defeat in the Ashes earlier this year, it would provide a lot of fodder for us greedy scribes.

Pietersen tried his best to satisfy us. After an otherwise miserable IPL season, the England discard was just about beginning to find some form towards the end, with a couple of back-to-back forties to his name going into Sunday's game.

After Delhi were asked to bat by Punjab in the fourth over of the innings, KP provided the first sign that something special was in the offing. Fast bowler Parvinder Awana delivered a slower leg cutter, but Pietersen spotted it early and thwacked it over the bowler's head for four.

Everything about the shot oozed the class that had been associated with Pietersen throughout his decade-long international career, which brought him over 13,000 runs across all formats.

Pietersen came forward, transferring his weight onto the front foot like clockwork and elegantly gave the ball a lift, using the full face of the bat.

In the very next over, Pietersen came face-to-face with Mitchell Johnson, the bowler who had almost single-handedly destroyed England in the Ashes. While both players had been their respective teams' best performers during that series, it was ironic how their careers took such different paths following it.

Pietersen, not one to dwell on the past, greeted his former contemporary with two of the most sublime and artistic cover drives you would ever see coming from his blade: the first on the front foot and the second one leaning slightly on the back foot followed by an aesthetically dismissive swish of the willow.

But for all his artistry, Pietersen's innings was not the picture perfect time at the crease that you would have hoped for. He could have easily been dismissed twice off the inside edge, but he got two boundaries instead.

In the very first over of the innings, he almost ran his partner Mayank Agarwal out, before eventually succeeding in doing so with Manoj Tiwary.

It wasn't a perfect innings, but that wouldn't have mattered, would it? What mattered was how far he went. Once he crossed his first half-century of the season, just as us journalists had begun to cook up catchy headlines bordering on the melodramatic—with a complete disregard to the result of the match—he was given out LBW in what was a slightly dubious umpiring call.

Pietersen's last innings in IPL 7 read 58 off 41 balls, including nine boundaries. He had tried his best to give us the fairy-tale comeback, but he had been undone by an arguably contentious umpiring call and the shockingly poor form of the rest of his teammates. Apart from him, not a single Delhi player managed to score more than 13 runs.

Did Pietersen play well? He sure did. He scored his first 50 in the IPL after 12 innings. But could you classify it as a comeback? Perhaps not. Because, at the end of the day, no matter how much you try and oversee it, the result of the match and the way the team is performing matters when making such calls.

The fact is that the Daredevils went on to record their ninth straight defeat of the season, and Pietersen was unable to inspire his team to lift itself off the bottom of the table.

He had left it too late. The comeback and all the accompanying melodramatic headlines will have to wait another year.

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