Australia wary of Kevin Pietersen paradise

Kevin Pietersen has batted against Australia at the Adelaide Oval three times; twice he's returned to the pavilion a century-maker, one of those a double ton.

The redeveloped oval has a fresher skin now. But with its short square boundaries, usually dry conditions and flat pitch, it remains a potential bowlers' graveyard of the kind a big, egotistical axe grinder such as Pietersen loves. The only bowlers to have dismissed Pietersen in Adelaide Tests are spinners Xavier Doherty and Shane Warne. But the no-more-mister-nice-guys enter the Test on Thursday on a Mitchell Johnson-led, fast-bowling high, the team vowing to continue their ''verbals'' and coach Darren Lehmann wanting to usher in a back-to-the-future style of hard-nosed Australian cricket against the villainous Englishmen.

However, from someone of the era this team seems to be channelling comes a warning to think about what toughness actually means.

''If Thommo or Lillee or Hoggy sledged you, they could back it up,'' former Test paceman Len Pascoe says. ''I'm reading all this stuff about sledging and I think, if you can't back it up, you're the mouse that roared.''

Further, he wonders if the Australians have got the whole sledging thing right. In his day, most of the talk was in state and grade cricket. But, if there was something said in a Test, ''it was funny rather than nasty''.

''I was bowling to Viv Richards. The umpire warned me for bowling bouncers and Viv complained to the umpire. He said he shouldn't stop me bowling short because he liked it. Sledging should be used in subtle ways. When it gets to the point where you're upsetting someone by sledging, I think you've crossed the line.''

And it can backfire. To Pascoe, James Anderson has looked ''bored''. By sledging him, ''the lion could wake up''. ''It's maybe the same with Pietersen,'' Pascoe says. ''You have to be very careful how you go about it.''

Abuse doesn't make you a hard cricketer, Pascoe says. And he doesn't believe that's what Lehmann is talking about when he channels the past. It's more a spirit of disciplined aggression.

''I think the players today have been micro-managed,'' he says. ''When they're under pressure, they sometimes can't handle it. I think Darren's trying to put the spine back and get rid of the crutches the players have been leaning on.

''A lot of the hardness back then came from the Sheffield Shield. A lot of the top players were playing state cricket and it was very competitive and hard-nosed. That spirit permeated into the main arena. Darren grew up in the shadow of that and I think what he's trying to do is bring back something that's been lost.

''Toughness is when you're at the end of the last session, you've bowled 20 overs, the skipper tosses you the ball and you come in just as hard as your first over. Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle do that.

''And, when you're batting, if you're playing and missing, you dig in. You don't give in. Thirties aren't good enough. We need hundreds and Darren is trying to change the batsmen's attitude. It takes mental strength.''

The strength will be tested in Adelaide, where Pietersen has never fallen to a fast bowler. But he's no Richards and Pascoe expects Johnson's pace and bounce to trouble him and the other Englishmen. ''He had shortened his run-up but he's lengthened it again and he's got good rhythm. That's where the pace is coming from.

''If there's bounce in the deck, they'll find it hard to handle him. He's got that raw pace that's been missing. If they're smart they should be able to back up what they did in Brisbane.''

Twitter - @davesygall

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