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King KP comes to the party

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Tom Fordyce | 08:21 UK time, Sunday, 5 December 2010

Adelaide, South Australia

"Kevin will make someone pay dearly for his poor run of form."

When Graham Ford, coach of the Nashua Dolphins, came out with that statement just before this Ashes series began, it seemed like nothing but hopeful bluster - the sort of empty threat Dr Evil might make if he ever turned his attention from death stars and mutated sea bass to out-of-form cricketers with a penchant for switch-hits.

Kevin Pietersen had finished his last Test series with an average of 23. Dropped from the England one-day side, he had then been dismissed for 0 and 1 in his next first-class outing. Coming into this match he hadn't made a Test century in 21 months.

We should have known better. Ford knows his former pupil's batting inside out; Pietersen loves nothing more than a stage and a set of spotlights.

In Brisbane he played beautifully for 43 but then got himself out. Here in Adelaide he played beautifully for 43 and then carried on playing beautifully for another 170. If the rain hadn't come down as if this was South Wales rather than South Australia, he could have creamed it around until Christmas.

England have piled on 551 runs for the loss of four wickets and hold a 306-run lead over the Aussies after three days, despite the rain thwarting play after tea.

In this sort of shape, Pietersen is like no other England batsman in memory. There have been more prolific run-scorers, there have been more graceful stroke-makers. There have been more pugnacious fighters.

But no-one else combines all three of those virtues, and then adds the swagger of Shere Khan and the strut of a show-pony.

At times on Sunday it was like watching Viv Richards in his pomp. If you weren't here to witness it, that will probably sound too lofty a comparison - Pietersen doesn't have King Viv's weight of runs, or number of centuries, or place in history.

What he does have is a similar ability to dominate not just the bowling but the entire drama, sucking in the attention of the entire ground, ripping the opposition's fielding plans to pieces and emptying the hospitality marquees and beer tents as effectively as a fire alarm.

When Pietersen is struggling, as he did all summer against Pakistan, he resembles the player who made so small a splash in his early professional years - a lower-order swiper and slogger, blessed with meaty arms and a sweet eye but lacking the patience or discipline needed to convert starts into centuries.

The bat comes down across his pad, the head falls across to the off side and the hands push too firmly at anything full and fast.

Kevin Pietersen was in imperious form for his unbeaten double century