Pietersen magnificent

Not often has Kevin Pietersen gone through a quiet spell, but he chose the best possible opportunity to grab the limelight today with a brilliant century on a tricky Headingly pitch. Although Pietersen rode his luck throughout the innings, his imperious strokes and trademark power made it hard to believe he had just emerged from such barren form.

Only injury prevented Pietersen from continuing his innings this evening – he suffered cramp in his left forearm shortly before reaching his century, but continued briefly to notch up the ton, and moved onto 104 before retiring. However, he will begin tomorrow with Ian Bell after Hoggard, acting as a nightwatchman, was bowled in the last over of the day by Umar Gul due to some slight movement away.

As the pitch had proved to be the defining factor in ending the day, it took effect early on: Gul constantly beat the edges of Marcus Trescothick’s bat, and was unlucky not to snap him up early on. At the other end, Mohammad Sami bowled erratically to Andrew Strauss and was punished with numerous long-hops, but it was Sami who got the first wicket when Trescothick drove a ball straight back into his glad arms, which accepted the gift second time around.

Not another run had been scored before Gul finally got the wicket he deserved: a good delivery pitched on a crack and moved away from the left-hander who could do nothing but edge it to second slip. Suddenly, England found themselves 76 for two, and a middle-order collapse needed to be averted.

The Pakistani bowlers, however, did not respond to England’s precarious situation and soon Alistair Cook found himself glancing poor deliveries down the leg side. Meanwhile, Pietersen’s first slice of luck came: he got a thin inside edge onto his pad which flew through to Kamran Akmal behind the wicket, but umpire Darrell Hair did not raise the finger.

Cook could not complain when he popped Gul’s delivery back to the bowler shortly before lunch, and Paul Collingwood joined Pietersen at the crease.

Pietersen did not wait long to have his second stroke of luck, though – Shahid Nazir thought he had grabbed his wicket, but the overstepping ensured that the Pakistanis’ original frustration was maintained.

However, Collingwood looked confident straight away and did not hesitate to get off the mark – a hook sent the ball flying over the boundary for a maximum, but the same shot proved to be his downfall when a similar ball bowled to him, 31 runs later, was sent down deep square-leg’s throat.

With Collingwood’s dismissal, Bell came to the crease at number six, and took full advantage of the form he is in, advancing to 66 not out before the close, and accompanied Pietersen to his century and temporary retirement – Pietersen confirmed at the end of the day that he would open up tomorrow.

A nervous Chris Read was on-hand when Pietersen retired, but his first runs looked distinctly unorganised – a square cut tempted an inside edge which missed the stumps narrowly. Throughout his innings, Read looked uncomfortable on the front foot, and it proved his downfall when he was trapped by Gul, becoming the seamer’s third wicket of the day.

At stumps, England finished on 347 for six, and with a pumped-up Pietersen ready to take centre-stage again tomorrow morning, Pakistan’s other bowlers must take a leaf out of Gul’s book and use the vagaries of the pitch to their advantage in the morning.

England 347-6
Kevin Pietersen 104, Ian Bell 66*
Umar Gul 4/73, Shahid Nazir 1/62

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