One-day wonders: Pietersen wins battle but the war is far from over

Some words of warning for England. They have been in this place often before only to find it leading nowhere. To summon an example, almost at random, they defeated South Africa in the first match of the last series the sides played and were eventually hammered.

For years, running now into decades, they have flattered to deceive in one-day cricket. For a similar period they seem to have found a game plan and then discarded it. Put another way, England might have beaten South Africa by 20 runs in Headingley on Friday night but they ain't won nothin' yet.

It was reassuring to hear the words of Kevin Pietersen in the immediate afterglow of that victory. This is still the embryonic period of his captaincy of England but the early signs are that he has what it takes in all departments. He performed wonderfully as a batsman, together with Andrew Flintoff, digging his team out of a hole they had excavated themselves in a familiar pattern. It did not seem as though he played as swashbucklingly as in his vintage innings but none the less his 90 took only 82 balls.

Pietersen then bowled his occasional off-spin when he felt there was a need to bowl and struck immediately. His changes inevitably worked and you could almost hear his thought processes. He inspired himself and elicited the most emphatic response from his players. There seemed to be a genuine affection.

And then after England had got home by 20 runs – not as easy as it sounded – he was pitch perfect. He rightly praised the individuals but was reluctant to move into hyperbolic gear on the overall nature of the victory and what it might mean.

Of Flintoff he said: "The man is a superstar. Some people are born into this world who are just superstars and the ability he has with that cricket ball is just second to none, absolutely phenomenal." This is what Flintoff would have wanted to hear, although his figures of 2 for 46 were hardly remarkable.

Years ago, at the start of his career, Flintoff scored a glorious, match-winning 80 against Pakistan in Karachi and was befuddled and hurt when the captain, Nasser Hussain, was decidedly restrained in his praise. Hussain did not get much wrong as England captain but he misjudged his man there. Flintoff is a titanic performer but he is human too and likes to be told how good he is every so often.

As if the return of one conquering hero were not enough, Pietersen has ensnared another in Stephen Harmison. The big fella, as he likes to call him, bowled ferociously in his first one-day match for almost two years and Pietersen was cock-a-hoop that he had lured him back to the team. "This is the stage he belongs on," said the captain. "Not playing for Durham in front of 34 people, but in front of 34,000, 40,000 or 50,000, that's where Steve Harmison belongs."

Apart from the thought that Durham might quibble at the size of their audience they are purported to attract, this made the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. In its way, it was Hussain at his finest. But it was Pietersen. Then came his clinical assessment of the team.

"There's some positive stuff happening in English cricket at the moment but there's no point getting ahead of ourselves because we start every series well. We always win the first game and mess the next four up. The key to this victory is to make sure we focus on Tuesday and turn up with the same energy, buzz and confidence." The perfect analysis of the state of affairs.

There remain flaws in England's cricket. They have still not deduced a method of using the power plays to their advantage. If the middle order comes off in style every time, it might not matter but it is lacklustre cricket. The main shortcoming is the failure to work out quickly how a particular pitch is playing.

South Africa will try to come back hard because they are still playing to overtake Australia at No 1 in the rankings. But the feeling persists that in winning the Test series they did what they came to do this summer. If England can win in Nottingham on Tuesday, Pietersen might really have something to say.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
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

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection