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KFC BBL|07

Classy KP refusing to go quietly

13 January 2018

Englishman sparks Stars to first win and remains as competitive as ever in closing stages of career

It was only a matter of time before Kevin Pietersen, on his farewell trip around Australia, reminded this country of his unrivalled ability.

In announcing that this KFC Big Bash League was to be his last, the Melbourne Stars veteran said last week that while the hunger to compete still burned within him, in 10 months' time he knew it would not.

That realisation would be enough for most athletes to pack it in right then and there. But if Pietersen has proved one thing in his career, it's that he's no ordinary cricketer.

Coming in to the second Melbourne derby of BBL|07, Pietersen's form had not been awful (85 runs @ 21.25, strike-rate 121.43) but he had yet to reach the heights increasingly warm Australian crowds have come to expect from him.

Hardly helping his cause have been the Stars' woeful starts. Batting at first drop in all five of his matches this season, he's come in at 1-0, 1-12, 1-18, 1-2 and then 1-0 again at Etihad Stadium on Friday.

Uncharacteristically cleaned up by a rampant Billy Stanlake earlier this week for his lowest total of the tournament, the dismissal was taken by some as a sign Pietersen was winding down. Adelaide Strikers coach Jason Gillespie indicated they didn't think the former England captain would be up to coping with one of the country's fastest bowlers.

On Friday night at Etihad, it took just one stroke to dismiss those concerns.

With the winless Stars again recovering from a poor start, Pietersen drove Renegades quick Kane Richardson down the ground for the first boundary of the match.

KP kick-starts his innings in style

"That straight drive to get him going early was as good a shot as we've seen all tournament," teammate Glenn Maxwell told cricket.com.au after play.

There were a couple more that might have come close to equalling it.

His first six, off cagey left-arm spinner Jon Holland, was typically classy, gently leaning into a good length ball and muscling it over the wide long-on rope. All that was missing was his right leg kicking up from behind to signal a trademark 'flamingo' shot.

With that, he was going at full tilt again and his dismantling of Brad Hogg (0-30 from two overs) to the tune of three sixes forced the home side to discard the veteran with two overs still to bowl and not return to him, a rare occurrence for the dependable wrist-spinner.  

Pietersen's 46-ball 74 turned out to be the difference between the two sides, as the Stars kept their remote finals hopes alive with a 23-run victory.

"He was super," Maxwell continued. "We know the class that he's got and he seems to make a lot of runs out here (at Etihad Stadium), he always seems to perform.

"A lot's been made that it's his last T20 competition in Australia. Hopefully he can go out with a bang, like the true champion he is.

"Some of the shots we saw today are just signs of what he could do. Hopefully that kick-starts him for the rest of this BBL."

Match highlights: Stars rule Renegades in derby

Peter Handscomb, who shared in a 100-run second-wicket stand with Pietersen, admired how the 37-year-old – despite being more than a decade his senior – still clears the fence with ease.

"It's nice, I can just hit singles and he hits sixes," a smiling Handscomb said.

"He's a very smart cricketer and he reads the game very well.

"We were discussing in between each over what we were going to try to do with each bowler. It just meant we had clear plans going into each over.

"If you've had a look at his BBL so far, he's been smacking it out of the middle and getting good starts – he just hasn't been able to go on with it.

"It was great to see him doing it again, and in a match-winning innings."

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Melbourne Stars BBL

Kevin Pietersen

KFC BBL|07

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