CRICKET: Pietersen's extravagance not enough for England

y in East London South Africa 311-7 England 304-8 South Africa win by 7 runs
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FOR ENGLAND, the road to Buffalo Park turned out to be paved with so much bull. The good intentions, the urge to turn this makeshift side into something more substantial were buried under a blaze of unfettered strokeplay and the best they can hope for now is a 3-3 draw in this Standard Bank Series.

To achieve that they will need to win the last two matches and to achieve that in turn they will almost certainly need yet another remarkable performance from Kevin Pietersen. That England lost by only seven runs in trying to chase down a target of 312 last night was down almost entirely to Pietersen.

He is forging a trail across the country where he was born and he made his second hundred of the series by hitting the last ball of the match for six. It was as extravagant as it was predictable. It was only the 69th ball of his innings, and it was by a distance the fastest one-day century by an England batsman.

Much of his innings was conducted in a lost cause but with Pietersen at the wicket, striking in improbable directions, England always had a sniff. He should have been stumped when he was on 16 and in the end, he did not quite receive as much of the bowling as he would have liked in the final frenetic flurry.

South Africa made 311 for 7, the highest score in a limited-overs match at the ground. It meant that England had to make their highest total anywhere, any time to win. Their start made it next to impossible and only Pietersen dragged it back from that realm.

The astonishing element of the home side's score was that they are supposed to be in disarray, they have just effectively sacked their temporary coach and are searching for a successor to their interim chairman of selectors. If ever they should manage to put their house in order, the opposition could be in real trouble.

The fifth match of a series which is apparently not interminable but will be called to a halt after seven, was played amid lakes of sawdust dotting the outfield after a deluge the previous night. They represented what England's hopes of levelling the series at 2-2 had become.

None of England's bowlers went for fewer than five runs an over, two of them went for more than seven. The largest contributor to South Africa's innings was Graeme Smith, who scored his second century of the series. Before it began he had never scored a single hundred in 56 matches, so England can be said to have pointed his limited-overs career in the right direction.

Smith, however, paled by comparison with Justin Kemp who is in the form of his life. He scythed his way to 80 from 50 balls, an innings which included seven sixes and four fours. He shovelled plenty in the direction of cow corner but can also hit good-length balls straight back over the bowler's head.

Before this series began Kemp had played 14 undistinguished one-dayers with a top score of 46. He has now scored 202 runs in five innings against England in the last 11 days at the phenomenal rate of 120 runs per 100 balls.

The last 10 overs throughout this series have been profitable for one side or the other, usually South Africa and this time they added 111. Of those, 62 came in the last five, which included a strange over from Darren Gough, once more England's best bowler, in which three wickets fell in three balls.