KP discovers 'happiness' at his old home

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen might have been spitting feathers in the dressing room last night after missing out on a richly deserved century. But if that was the case, no one outside England's inner sanctum will ever know.

"It was actually not frustrating at all," said Pietersen when asked for his reaction to getting out for 85 just before the end of another rain-ravaged day. "To play the way I did gave me a lot of happiness."

So it should have done. Having been under the microscope, mainly as a result of his problems against left-arm spinners but also because of a record showing just one century (albeit an Ashes double at Adelaide last winter) in 36 Test innings, he was commanding from the word go.

Even so, a hundred is something special. "If someone had said 85 to me in the morning and told me I would play the way I did [I would have settled for it]," insisted Pietersen. "If I keep playing that way the hundreds will come, and hopefully a lot of them. I really, really enjoyed the way I played."

The spectators were fairly chuffed, too, with Pietersen's innings rewarding them for sticking it out despite numerous interruptions for rain. The former Hampshire batsman is not flavour of the month with everyone in these parts after leaving the county under something of a cloud last year but those present yesterday gave him a fine reception.

All they wanted then, in fact, was to celebrate his century, and it did look as though Pietersen was trying to give them the chance before close of play. But no, he insisted. "There were only one or two overs left and I would have had to play quite a few outrageous shots to have got to a hundred before we came off. I just did exactly what I'd done the whole time and tried to hit straight or through extra cover."

Curiously, Sri Lanka were slow in challenging Pietersen with their left-arm spinner, Rangana Herath. Well, it was curious to almost everyone apart from the batsman in question. "I wasn't surprised at all," he said. "You guys seem to have a problem with that. I don't have a problem at all." But then he softened and almost admitted that all the talk about his problems against southpaw spinners has been understandable.

"We realise you guys [in the media] have a job to do and if I give you ammunition, you are going to fire the gun. I've probably given you enough ammunition – they've got me out quite a few times. It's absolutely no drama to me. What it has probably done is make me play a lot better than I would have. I've worked that extra bit harder thinking, 'have I got a problem? I've never had a problem'."

The spotlight now has shifted to Andrew Strauss and his apparent weakness against left-arm quick bowlers. Sri Lanka's Chanaka Welegedara has dismissed him in three consecutive innings for only seven runs.

England's captain may not get another chance in this series but the next left-armer, India's Zaheer Khan, is waiting just around the corner and could pose an even bigger threat than Welegedara come the summer's second series. "Straussy is working as hard as ever and you are only one knock away from scoring runs," said Pietersen. He should know.

The problem, it seems, is that left-hander Strauss does not know what to play and what to leave alone against the left-arm over line of attack, his latest early exit being a classic case of uncertainty. TV replays showed he could have kept his blade out of harm's way. Instead, he pushed tentatively at the ball, like a man in two minds, and the almost inevitable edge flew straight to first slip.