England v S.A: Pietersen continues impressive start to reign

Kevin Pietersen's ability to provide an instant impact as England's new captain was maintained with an all-round display to inspire an unlikely victory in the opening match of the NatWest Series tonight.

Since taking over as captain of all England's senior teams, Pietersen has already inspired a final Test victory at the Oval over the previously dominant South Africans, provoking irritated reaction in Australia by claiming his new side would win the Ashes if they continued that level of performance.



He has also demonstrated his great powers of persuasion to tempt Steve Harmison into reversing his decision to retire from one-day international cricket and answer England's call to end his two-year exile and return for the five-match series.



But perhaps his greatest feat since taking on the responsibility of captain has been to inspire an unlikely victory under the lights at Headingley tonight as England cruised to a 20-run victory.



Any worries about the captaincy affecting his performance were lifted by a brilliant century at the Oval and underlined even more emphatically today with a brilliant 90 off 82 balls to rescue England from a pedestrian start to their innings and reach 274 for four.



His performance with the ball, however, was even more unexpected and he helped remove three of South Africa's key batsmen - Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher - with his under-used off-spin just as the tourists looked on course to complete a convincing triumph.



He also demonstrated an uncanny knack of choosing the right time - and the right bowler - to make a change in the attack with himself, Harmison and Samit Patel all claiming wickets in their first overs.



Pietersen's display masked another worrying start to the innings by England, who were only rescued by a brilliant 158-run stand off 129 balls between the new captain and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff that made amends for a desperately slow start.



Having won the toss and decided the to bat first, Pietersen would have wanted England to demonstrate the same aggressive cricket which had been so successful during the final Test but instead they struggled for most of the innings to score at an acceptable rate.



That battle to score boundaries was typified by Ian Bell, who was partnered with Matt Prior at the top of the order and failed to score a single boundary in 69 balls before falling for 35 having used up 20 overs of the innings.



Prior was more aggressive in his stance and his five fours and a six were the only boundaries hit by any England batsman for the first 35 overs until Flintoff finally broke a sequence of 98 balls without a boundary.



Both of England's openers perished in identical circumstances, driving Kallis to point, while Owais Shah made just 12 in his new role at number three before holing out in the deep attempting a slog sweep.



At 113 for three in the 29th over when Flintoff joined his new captain at the crease, England were in danger of subsiding to a modest total if their two big-hitters were also unable to break South Africa's stranglehold.



Knowing the consequences if they also failed, both players were unusually circumspect with Flintoff taking 20 balls to record the first boundary in 13 overs when he stepped away to hit Dale Steyn through extra cover.



Pietersen was equally cautious and took 52 balls to register his first boundary, a pull for four when off-spinner Johan Botha delivered a full toss, but still reached his half-century off only 55 balls.



Flintoff, without a half-century since hitting an unbeaten 72 against New Zealand at Hobart 22 one-day internationals ago, ended that sequence by reaching a superb 78 off 70 balls including nine fours before being bowled by Steyn in the final over of the innings.



Facing a competitive target, South Africa approached their chase in a vastly different manner to England's with openers Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith racing to a 50 partnership in only eight overs.



Continuing the theme of his captaincy, however, Pietersen's decision to remove James Anderson from the attack after his first three overs cost 18 runs and replace him with Harmison earned immediate rewards.



Two years after conceding 97 runs off 10 overs in his previous England one-day appearance at Headingley against Sri Lanka, this time Harmison found his rhythm from the start and struck with his fourth ball to have Smith caught behind.



Another bowling change eight overs later had a similar effect with Patel, playing his first major international, justifying his selection ahead of Nottinghamshire team-mate Graeme Swann by bowling Gibbs as he attempted to cut his fourth delivery.



Inevitably, though, Pietersen made the biggest impact and after bringing himself on as part of a spin partnership with Patel, induced de Villiers into a clip to mid-wicket and provoked enough panic for Kallis to run himself out after hitting 52 off 69 balls.



Any hopes of a South African recovery were ended with Boucher, one of the cleanest hitters in their side, being stumped pushing forward to Pietersen to effectively settle the outcome as South Africa's innings capitulated with the rising run-rate to 255 all out.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice