County Championship round-up: Pietersen delivers timely reminder of supreme talent


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The Independent Online

His mouth and his texting fingers may let him down but when Kevin Pietersen allows his bat alone to do the talking it is difficult not to take notice and approve. Reduced to the ranks as a mere county player while his international future remains in the air, Pietersen marked his return to Championship action for Surrey at Taunton by hitting 163 off 168 balls against Somerset.

He had scored an unbeaten 234 against Lancashire on his previous appearance in four-day cricket for the county. Yesterday's innings followed his brilliant 149 for England against South Africa at Headingley before the breakdown of his relationship with the England captain, Andrew Strauss, came to the fore with the revelation of derogatory comments made about Strauss in text messages to members of the South African team.

Pietersen, who hit 20 fours and three sixes in scoring more than half of Surrey's total of 317 all out, is reported to be scheduled to meet Strauss later this week in the hope that fences can be mended, although Pietersen made it clear through Surrey officials that he would be making no comment on that or any other matter during the current match. Strauss, who was due to have played for Middlesex this week, withdrew from their match at Worcester on Monday, on England's orders.

Circumspect when he strode out to bat with Surrey 44 for 2 in a match they need to win to banish their relegation fears, Pietersen accelerated during the afternoon session and reached his half-century off 66 balls before scoring at a run a ball to reach his century with his 15th boundary.

His next 50 runs came off only 36 balls, including two sixes off left-arm spinner George Dockrell. The innings ended when he was caught behind off the bowling of his erstwhile England team-mate, Saj Mahmood, who has joined Somerset on loan in the hope of reviving his career and finished with 4 for 62.

Somerset are still outside contenders for the Championship, of which the ultimate winners may emerge at Edgbaston, where Warwickshire are meeting Nottinghamshire in the first of two late-season clashes.

Warwickshire, who had a 12-point lead over Sussex and a 27-point advantage on Nottinghamshire going into this round, chose to bat first on winning the toss and were well placed after half-centuries from Ian Westwood and Tim Ambrose. A victory for Warwickshire would all but guarantee them the prize, given that Sussex have one match fewer to play.

Lancashire lost their first four wickets for 11 runs against Durham after a delayed start at Liverpool. They were grateful later for half-centuries from Gareth Cross and Tom Smith. Worcestershire, who began the round level on 87 points with Lancashire at the foot of Division One, some 15 behind Surrey, are 295 for eight against Middlesex.

Left-arm spinner David Wainwright took four for 64 as Division Two leaders Derbyshire bowled out Essex for 245 at Derby, but slipped to 27 for three in reply. Promotion-chasing Yorkshire had Gloucestershire nine for four at Scarborough before the visitors recovered to 214 all out. Yorkshire are 61 for two in reply.