On a sunlit evening, with an air of utter inevitability, Kevin Pietersen scored a century against the land of his birth on the first day of his first encounter with them in a Test match. It was equally inevitable, though almost coincidental, that it put England into a position of considerable strength after being asked to bat in the First Test.
The chief sub-plot of this series was always likely to be the performances of Pietersen for his adopted country against the country he left at 19 because of grievances over the quota system. Many bitter words had been spoken by representatives of both sides in the three years since he made his international debut.
This was an innings Pietersen had been waiting all that time to play. His high anxiety was clear from the way he set off for a suicidal single off his second ball – the throw just missing the stumps with the batsman yards out. South Africa’s intent too was clear as Dale Steyn felled him with a bouncer shortly after.
But Pietersen then played with marvellous clear-headedness in assembling a quite majestic hundred in three hours from 127 balls. It involved shots both conventional and conventionally unconventional. He was lent charming support by Ian Bell as the pair guided England from the relative danger of 117 for three.
South Africa’s much-hyped pace attack was entirely neutered but it was far from the feral beast that had been promised. A South African put South Africa firmly in their place and from the elation spread across his face like a blanket seemed to have enjoyed every second.Reuse content