Royals rule as Pietersen makes brief return

Kevin Pietersen is bowled by Liam Dawson first ball. Hampshire v Surrey. Clydesdale Bank 40. Ageas Bowl. Sunday, Auhust 19, 2012. Picture: Dave Vokes

Kevin Pietersen is bowled by Liam Dawson first ball. Hampshire v Surrey. Clydesdale Bank 40. Ageas Bowl. Sunday, Auhust 19, 2012. Picture: Dave Vokes

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It’s hard to feel too much sympathy for Kevin Pietersen.

Allegations of derogatory text messages about skipper Andrew Strauss he sent to South African players cost him his place in the England Test team last week.

By all accounts, the former Hampshire batsman – for all of his explosive talent – is not well liked in the cricketing world.

Arrogant, self-centred and aloof are just some of the terms regularly aimed at him.

On the few occasions he turned out for Hampshire, most who dealt with him would find it hard to argue with that assessment.

But having seen his England career suspended – some believe finished – a match for Surrey beckoned in yesterday’s CB40 showdown with his old county.

Unlike football where just about every player returning to his former club will get dog’s abuse, no matter how many goals he scored or matches he won, cricketers tend to get a polite welcome back.

As he made his way to the middle, Pietersen was greeted with applause, boos and shouts from the spectators in the Ageas Bowl.

And after his initial reception was mixed, Pietersen’s return to the pavilion just one Liam Dawson delivery later had all the hallmarks of others revelling in his demise.

The roar from the crowd as Pietersen’s stumps were clattered was more akin to a goal at Fratton Park.

And the subsequent boos, jeers, laughter and even a woman in her fities mouthing ‘there is a God’ to her friend a few rows away showed exactly how Pietersen is regarded on his old stomping ground.

The batsman did his very best to look unruffled by it all as he made his way back up the steps.

But even his usual strut and puffed out chest had the look of a man coming to terms with being brought down a peg or two.

Undoubtedly, he’s a superstar batsman and many will argue there are very few box-office players who generate the excitement he does when he’s in full flow.

But Mr Popular, he ain’t.

Dawson said: ‘To get Kevin was a special moment.

‘I got him first ball in the t20 game at The Oval and it’s brilliant to get a world-class player like that again.

‘I heard the noise of the stumps and we all went mental.

‘I didn’t say anything to him out there and I wouldn’t say I know him.

‘I only ever spoke to him a couple of times when he was here. I’ve got him out twice now but I’m sure he’ll catch me one day!’

While Pietersen was the major talking point of the day, Michael Carberry’s return was much the more effective and perfectly timed ahead of a spell of crucial fixtures.

The Hampshire batsman was back in the side after recovering from a knee ligament injury.

And he looked as if he’d never been away, firing a fine 54 to set the Royals on their way to a victory they eventually claimed with relative ease, despite a late wobble.

Having restricted Surrey to 175 for nine from their 40 overs on a tricky pitch, Carberry and Neil McKenzie (38) shared a patient partnership that should have made for an easy win.

But a late flurry of wickets meant Sean Ervine and Michael Bates were required to seal the four-wicket success with 11 balls remaining.

Carberry said: ‘It was good to be back.

‘It was a hard pitch to bat on but we got through some tough spells.

‘It wasn’t easy at times. We had to keep attacking intent as we went along.

‘I hadn’t managed to get any matches before coming back in but I felt as though I had done all the preparation I could.

‘There’s nothing like time in the middle and it was a good, solid team performance.’

The official Ageas Bowl attendance of 7,063 was up on many matches this term.

Hampshire deserve credit for their efforts to attract new followers with many free tickets given away.

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