Comment: A century to remember

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The Independent Online

It would appear that Kevin Pietersen is a masterful horseman as well as a master batsman, to judge by the way he rode his luck after lunch today to the extent of becoming only the fourth England captain to score a century in his first match as captain.

The previous players to have achieved the feat were Archie MacLaren, against Australia in Sydney in December 1897, Allan Lamb against the West Indies in Bridgetown in April 1990 and Andrew Strauss against Pakistan in July 2006.

He may have started his first Test as England captain by losing the toss, but the Hampshire player has more than made up for that since. He nearly did not reach the 14th hundred of his test career – and third on this ground.

He had just passed fifty when Pietersen top edged a pull off Morné Morkel into the deep. It looked as if Paul Harris at deep square leg should have attempted to have taken the catch but Makhaya Ntini at long leg clearly called for it, sprinted 20 yards, dived full length – and didn’t get so much as a finger nail on the ball.

The crowd’s delight bordered on the hysterical. There was an interval of ten minutes, ostensibly for bad light, but in reality to let the England fans recover their breath, then came another Pietersen-Ntini sideshow.

This time the hapless bowler was André Nel. Another attempted pull, another miscue this time the ball flying high over mid-on. Ntini raced back towards the boundary, the crowd yelling wildly. The fielder launched himself in a despairing attempt to make the catch. The ball struck his outstretched palms – then bounced off them and headed for the rope. In the end Ntini did well to save the four. The England supporters loved it.

So did Pietersen. Especially when he reached three figures. His joy was unalloyed, uninhibited. As was that of the fans. Unfortunately this emotion was quickly followed by grief, when two balls later he was snapped up at slip. But his was still a great achievement.