Cricket: Man of the moment fired up by homeland rivalry.
KEVIN PIETERSEN found inspiration from his fraught relationship with South Africa to deliver another Lord's century and ensure England dominated the first day of the npower Test series.
Ever since Pietersen quit his South African homeland in protest at the quota system, which he believed was hindering his opportunities, to take his chances with England, he has been a major target for the Proteas.
He was barracked on and off the pitch during his maiden one-day series in South Africa in 2004-5, during which he scored three centuries, and only this week captain Graeme Smith remarked that: "Kevin and I would get on a lot better if he kept his mouth shut."
But on the occasion of his maiden Test appearance against South Africa, Pietersen rose to the challenge once again and battled through a stormy introduction to claim his 13th Test century, his fourth at Lord's, to guide England to 309 for three at the close of the first day.
Pietersen's potential conflict with South Africa had been earmarked as one of the key factors in deciding the four-Test series and after waiting until mid-afternoon for his entrance down the Pavilion steps the drama did not disappoint.
He could have been dismissed twice before he had even reached double figures but recovered his composure sufficiently to hit a six and 13 fours in his century and helped England recover from losing three wickets in a 13-ball spell by forging an unbroken 192-run stand with Ian Bell.
England had entered the series with a mis-firing top order which had failed to register a first innings total in excess of 400 for 12 successive Tests and were pitted against a highly-regarded South African attack. But their failure to play any Test cricket since April told and they allowed England to enjoy a 114-run opening stand. They consistently failed to trouble either of England's openers during the early stages and it was not until they re-grouped at lunch that the required lines and lengths were hit consistently.
The turning point was a contentious lbw decision given against Andrew Strauss on 44 from a full-length delivery by Morne Morkel which umpire Daryl Harper failed to spot had pitched outside leg-stump.
It was a bonus dismissal for the tourists and immediately their two strike bowlers demonstrated how effective they can be with Dale Steyn striking just seven balls later with a swinging delivery which had Michael Vaughan's stumps as he tried to clip through mid-wicket.
Five balls after that the extra bounce and pace generated by Morkel accounted for Alastair Cook, who had battled for more than three hours for his 60, when he attempted to fend off a short ball which flew in the air and allowed AB de Villiers to run from slip to take the catch.
England had slipped to 117 for three with Pietersen and Bell united at the crease, both men needing to prove a point for different reasons as they embarked on their innings.
Pietersen wanted to show South Africa the error of their ways to allow him to leave while Bell's place has been under pressure like never before, particularly with the imminent return of all-rounder Andrew Flintoff.
Adrenaline pumping at the start of his innings, Pietersen almost ran himself out before he had scored when he pushed Steyn to mid-on and set off for a single.
He would have been short of his ground had Makhaya Ntini hit the stumps from a tight angle.
Knowing Pietersen's history, particularly with Smith, South Africa had made a conscious effort not to become involved in any flashpoints with him and concentrate on unsettling him with the ball. It was a tactic which almost worked with Steyn surprising him with a bouncer which rattled his helmet and almost bounced onto his stumps as he stumbled to the floor.
While Pietersen was struggling to assert himself, Bell looked assured from the moment he arrived at the crease and drove Morkel through extra cover for four to get off the mark. But Bell struggled to match that early strokeplay and when he became stuck in the 40s for 43 balls and 68 minutes, Pietersen accelerated past him to reach his half-century first.
Pietersen signalled his intentions by hitting left-arm spinner Paul Harris for a four and a six off successive balls and celebrated his century by cutting Morkel for four before celebrating with a flourish, twice jumping in the air to celebrate the landmark.
He could have been dismissed twice before he had even reached double figures
England's Kevin Pietersen is hit by a bouncer from South Africa's Dale Steyn yesterday at Lord's
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Jul 11, 2008|
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