England 275-4 South Africa 255 (Eng. win by 20 runs): Pietersen's golden touch fires England to victory

Kevin Pietersen's enviable quality of transforming almost everything he touches into success continued here last night when he starred in England's 20-run victory in the opening one-dayer of the NatWest Series. The new captain initially shone with the bat, scoring a brilliant unbeaten 90 in the home side's highly competitive total of 275. He received wonderful support from Andrew Flintoff, who struck an equally impressive 78, as the pair put on a wonderfully entertaining 158-run partnership.

But it was in the field that Pietersen's midas powers really came to the fore. A violent start by the South Africans left a capacity crowd fearing that England's total would not prove enough but three bowling changes by the captain brought immediate reward. The first involved Stephen Harmison, whose return from retirement had plenty to do with Pietersen's powers of persuasion. With his fourth ball, and with South Africa on 50 without loss in the eighth over, Harmison found the outside edge of Graeme Smith's bat. Matthew Prior, the England wicketkeeper, did the rest.

Then, eight overs later, Pietersen turned to Samit Patel, Nottinghamshire's left-arm spinning all-rounder, playing in just his second match for his country. Herschelle Gibbs was looking extremely dangerous but Patel bowled him with his second ball. With his confidence high and anything seemingly possible Pietersen then turned to himself. In his first over he had AB de Villiers caught at midwicket; in his second, he played a part in the run-out of Jacques Kallis for 52; and in his fourth he lured Mark Boucher out of his crease.

The ritual worked again when South Africa were getting ever closer to England's total. With the home team needing a wicket Pietersen brought Harmison back into the attack and the fast bowler struck in his returning over when he found the outside edge of JP Duminy's bat. The wicket reduced South Africa to 208 for 6, a position that effectively ended their run chase.

"Things are working at the moment," said a delighted Pietersen. "But there is no point getting ahead of ourselves because we start every series well – we always win the first game and then mess the next four up. The key to tonight's victory is that we focus on Nottingham on Tuesday: we turn up with the same energy, the same buzz and the same confidence."

When Pietersen joined Flintoff in the England side in 2005 the team's supporters would have imagined spending many glorious afternoons watching the pair destroy international bowling attacks. Sadly, England's two star attractions have spent far too little time together in the middle, but yesterday they lit up a glum and overcast Headingley, taking the South Africans apart in that 158-run partnership collected off just 129 balls.

It was just as well for England that the pair chose this day/night encounter to display their combined powers. When Flintoff joined Pietersen at the crease England were labouring on 113 for 3 in the 29th over. Both were watchful to begin with: Flintoff took 20 balls to find the boundary for the first time; Pietersen's first four came off the 52nd delivery he faced. As the pair pondered, England went through a 167-run period in which they struck just a solitary boundary.

But once the pair had decided to open their shoulders there was little South Africa could do about it. Boundaries were struck with regularity and a capacity crowd revelled in the strokeplay. Flintoff's game was predictably power-based with the all-rounder smashing the majority of his nine boundaries hard down the ground. His quest to score a hundred ended when Dale Steyn bowled him in the penultimate over of the innings.

Pietersen has greater dexterity and his innings was a combination of great touch and frightening power. When the England captain was not looking to smite the ball down the ground he would walk across his stumps and flick it to the vacant fine-leg area for four. The skill of the man drove Andre Nel to distraction. Pietersen was left needing to strike boundaries off the final three balls of the innings to post a seventh one-day hundred but on this occasion the challenge was, surprisingly, too much for him.

South Africa's approach in the opening overs of a one-day innings is in stark contrast to England's. The type of pitch the players are accustomed to moulds the differing attitudes: English batsmen tend to play most of their cricket on surfaces which inhibit aggressive strokeplay against the new ball.

Survival, rather than capitalising on fielding restrictions, is the first priority for many batsmen in these conditions, and England adopted such a policy yesterday, reaching 78 for 1 in the opening 20 overs. South Africans are brought up on more batsman-friendly pitches and look to take the game to the opposition. By the end of the 20th over they had accelerated to 108 for 2.

But their subsequent loss of wickets meant that England's strategy of having batsmen in hand for a slog in the final 15 overs won the day. It worked here; but it is not an approach that wins major tournaments.

Headingley scoreboard

England won toss

England

I R Bell c de Villiers b Kallis 35

†M J Prior c de Villiers b Kallis 42

O A Shah c Philander b Botha 12

*K P Pietersen not out 90

A Flintoff b Steyn 78

L J Wright not out 2

Extras (b4, lb5, w6, nb1) 16

Total (for 4, 50 overs) 275

Fall: 1-77 2-86 3-113 4-271.

Did not bat: R S Bopara, S R Patel, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, S J Harmison.

Bowling: Steyn 10-0-67-1; Ntini 9-0-38-0; Nel 10-1-53-0; Kallis 5-0-25-2; Botha 7-0-33-1; Philander 9-0-50-0.

South Africa

H H Gibbs b Patel 37

*G C Smith c Prior b S J Harmison 21J H Kallis run out 52

A B de Villiers c Bell b Pietersen 24

J P Duminy c Prior b S J Harmison 18

†M V Boucher st Prior b Pietersen 16

J Botha c sub b Broad 26

V D Philander run out 23

A Nel b Flintoff 10

D W Steyn not out 3

M Ntini b Flintoff 2

Extras (b4 lb8 w11) 23

Total (49.4 overs) 255

Fall: 1-50 2-93 3-142 4-149 5-168 6-202 7-219 8-245 9-249.

Bowling: Broad 10-0-61-1; Anderson 3-0-18-0; S J Harmison 10-1-43-2; Flintoff 9.4-1-46-2; Patel 10-0-42-1; Bopara 2-0-11-0; Pietersen 5-0-22-2.

England win by 20 runs

Umpires: I J Gould (Eng) and S J A Taufel (Aus).

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape