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Cricket: Now I feel I really belong: Kev.

Byline: By MYLES HODGSON Sports Correspondent

KEVIN PIETERSEN shrugged aside the emotions surrounding his maiden Test century against South Africa to hail the support provided by the Lord's crowd in the opening npower Test.

Pietersen marked his first Test appearance against his homeland with a brilliant unbeaten 104 to help England recover from losing three wickets in 13 balls to reach a healthy 309-3 at the close of the opening day.

It was his fourth century at Lord's since making his Test debut three years ago and it will also have been his most satisfying given his decision to quit South Africa in protest at the quota system to try his luck with England.

But while Pietersen rated his century as one of the highlights of his career, he also hailed the support of the crowd and admitted their backing provided him with a sense of belonging like never before.

"I knew at the start of my England career that I would have to play well to get people on my side but right now I feel as English as anybody," admitted Pietersen, who hit a six and 13 fours in his stunning innings.

"It was on a par with the 2005 Ashes when I scored 158 at theOval. I said last week that I'd love to have that feeling again, and the way the crowd and the spectators appreciated my innings and supported me - and when I went out to bat - was brilliant.

"The way they celebrated my hundred was one of the most emotional two minutes of my career so far. It was exactly the same feeling I had during the 2005 Ashes.

"Before the match there was a lot of speculation about various stuff about playing against South Africa, but the crowd were absolutely magnificent. I can't thank them enough for that appreciation and that applause - it was incredible."

Pietersen's innings was all the more crucial after England had lost three wickets in 13 balls to slip to 117 for three, but a determined 192-run stand with Ian Bell ensured England finished in the dominant position.

"Waiting to bat I was relaxed as I normally am, there were no emotions real ly," claimed Durban-born Pietersen. "I knew I had to do a job when we lost those three quick wickets and I think the boys have done brilliantly.

"It's one of those things where a script is written and someone has written a pretty incredible script for me."

South Africa finished the day disappointed with their efforts after they won the toss and decided to bowl first in seamer-friendly conditions.

MorneMorkel, who finished with an impressive haul of two for 66 despite labouring on a slow wicket, admitted: "It's a very special venue to play, but I think we just tried a bit too hard."

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TOP MAN: England's Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century against South Africa yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2008
Words:482
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