Comment: Captain responsible

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The Independent Online

It is surely only a matter of time, hours perhaps, before someone, somewhere dubs Kevin Pietersen Captain Marvel, or Captain Fantastic after the blessed beginning to his reign.

A measure of the respect and adulation in which he is now held by England supporters came with the fall of the second wicket. The sight of Ian Bell, promoted up the order to No3 now that Vaughan is not around, he lasted just four balls in the morning.

That should have had England fans comparing their heroes’ chances with those of the gloomy grey skies above Kennington, but the Warwickshire batsman’s departure actually brought Pietersen to the crease.

And rather as happened with Ian Botham in his pomp, bars emptied, beer was spilled from fragile plastic ‘glasses’ as people hurriedly made their way back to their seats to see what Pietersen had in mind for his next trick.

If they had expected fireworks they were in for a disappointment. The situation, the conditions and most importantly Pietersen’s new role, demanded, and got, circumspection, a measured approach.

Whenever a South African bowler strayed off line, bowled too full or too short, Pietersen punished it, as Makhaya Ntini, and subsequently Morné Morkel and André Nel discovered, courtesy of a clutch of blistering boundaries, including a glorious on-drive off Jacques Kallis shortly after he had been introduced to the attack.

But otherwise, and in between, Pietersen was prudence personified as he and opening batsman Alastair Cook steered England gently, but firmly, into three figures and closer to what should prove to be an inadequate South Africa total.

His temperament was sorely tested shortly before lunch, first when Cook gave away his wicket with a nothing shot, the score was on English cricket’s most inauspicious of totals 111, known as Nelson.

Next man in, Paul Collingwood, was then so eager to get off the mark that in the penultimate over before lunch he called his captain for a suicidal single. If Neil McKenzie’s throw had hit the stumps Collingwood would have been run out.

As it was he kept his wicket. And Pietersen kept his thoughts to himself. Welcome Captain Responsible.