The moment was forgotten as the Jamaica Test climaxed prematurely on Sunday, but there were few more gripping vignettes than the four deliveries that took Kevin Pietersen from 83 to 97, then cost him his wicket. Debate on the Guardian’s over-by-over web coverage, which I was writing at the time, raged immediately: plenty felt it was a stupid shot (and congratulations to the sub-editor at the Sun who came up with Dumb Slog Millionaire); just as many defended Pietersen on the grounds that, well, that’s how he bats.

Actually, it isn’t how he bats. The reason Pietersen is so successful is precisely because the risks he takes tend to be calculated. Even the switch-hit, dusted off only when there is a big gap at deep extra cover, is the product of hours of practice. What happened a week ago was different. It was about adrenaline. Four, four, six… then a pre-meditated slog-sweep. It was big, but it was not clever. And it nipped England’s first-innings revival in the bud at exactly the wrong moment.

Pietersen is too smart a player, too driven an individual, not to admit to himself in a quiet moment that he got it wrong, just as he did at Edgbaston last summer when he tried to hit Paul Harris over long-on to reach a hundred that never came. I’m not suggesting cricketers shouldn’t be able to make mistakes, and Pietersen deserves more leeway than any of his team-mates. But this is a guy who sets himself the highest standards: the reality is that three singles would have got him to three figures without compromising his reputation as one of the world’s three most watchable batsman (along with Virender Sehwag and Chris Gayle).

It’s true that cricket can place too high a premium on the value of 100 compared to, say, 97. But in Pietersen’s case there is a good statistical reason for reaching a century. On the 15 occasions he has done so in a Test match, he has passed 130 nine times and 150 five times. In other words, once he has made it through the nineties he cashes in more often than not. Oh, and he has only fallen in the nineties on four occasions. There is a time and a place for caution too.

You might argue that the onus on Pietersen, the only world-class batsman in England’s top six, is disproportionately large. And you’d be right. But that is a separate issue from what he himself can become as a batsman. Anything is possible. He just needs to give himself the best chance of achieving it.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey