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Flower is encouraged as Pietersen cashes in.

KEVIN Pietersen's first half-century since hiscomebackfrominjury was the most encouraging aspect for coach Andy Flower as England piled up the runs at Buffalo Park yesterday.

Andrew Strauss made 100 while there were 50s for Pietersen (71), Alastair Cook (52) and Jonathan Trott (50) in a stumps total of 317 for five declared on day one of two against aSouthAfrican Invitational XI.

Therewas little pressureonanyof the batsmen, other than that of expectation they would take their chance on a slow pitch against benign opposition for a confidence boost before next week's first Test.

Whether they achieved anything more substantial was very much open to question, on a pitch far removed fromthe pace and bounS ce they can expect to face from a much-vaunted South Africa attack at Centurion.

Flower, however,was satisfied, especially with Pietersen.

"The other guys have been in the runs recently, so that probably was the most pleasing aspect of the day," he said.

"Kevin has been out of cricket, and then not scoring heavily.

"Him getting in and getting that time in the middle was vital.

"You could see as his innings progressed that he looked more balanced and more assured at the crease. That's very important for him."

While Pietersen, Strauss and Cook all scored at a good rate, Trott did anything but - taking an hour over his first four runs. When he finally reached a 135-ball 50, Trott was immediately retired out - like Strauss and Cook before him.

But Flower explained: "He was obviously working through his own processes out there in the middle, and I didn't have a problem with him batting that slowly.

"If thatgetshimreadyfor thefirst Test then all well and good."

As for conditions which hardly simulated what England should expect for much of the forthcoming four-Test series, Flower is in no mood to complain.

"This is the preparation we were given, and I think we've made the most of it so far," he added.

"Obviously, we would have preferred a bouncier pitch - because that is whatwe are expecting in the Test series.

"But that was not to be, and they've done a really good job getting this ready for us."

Meanwhile South Africa are still hoping Jacques Kallis will be fit to play at Centurion next week.

The chances of the all-rounder being able to bowl aswell as bat are receding, ashe recovers slowly from the cracked rib which ruled him out of the recent one-day series.

But the hosts will pick him as a specialist batsman, as long as they are satisfied that activity will not hinder his improvement so far.

SCORECARD South African Airways XI v England England First Innings Strauss retd out ...................................100 Cook retd out ....................................... 52 Trott retd out ........................................ 50 Pietersen c vanWyk b Vallie................... 71 Bell b Eccles........................................... 8 Prior not out ......................................... 19 Wright not out ........................................ 1 Extras.................................................. 16 Total 5 wkts (88 overs) ..........................317 Fall: 1-101 2-169 3-274 4-293 5-304 Bowling: Myoli: 16-1-82-0, Eccles: 16-0-79-1, Weise: 17-4-40-0, Pietersen: 12-2-41-0, Adams: 13-5-14-0, Vallie: 7-1-32-1, Bossenger: 7-0-23-0.

CAPTION(S):

Kevin Pietersen on his way to an impressive 71 in East London yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 12, 2009
Words:515
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