Pietersen: 'I like to stand up and be counted on really tough days'

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Some sportsmen pride themselves on their modesty, deferentially underplaying their achievements even when there is no one to question the brilliance of their performance, preferring to acknowledge standing ovations with bashful reluctance.

Kevin Pietersen has sometimes tried to follow that model but you sense it does not come to him naturally. Yesterday there was no pretence.

After celebrating a stunning century extravagantly on the field, he could not resist leading the applause off it.

"I like to score runs when it counts and while it is good to score runs at any time it feels better still when we are in trouble," he said.

"Losing three wickets for two straight after lunch was not what we planned to do but it is at times like those that I like to score runs for England, when we are staring down the barrel.

"The hundred I scored in Napier when we were 36 for four, that was another. The Ashes hundred – there have been quite a few I've scored when we have been down in the dumps and it is something I pride myself on. I like to stand up to be counted on days when it is really tough, I think it is a good measure of character. At 86-5 we were staring down the barrel but I just wanted to come out and enjoy myself.

"I thought I was playing well, hitting the ball nicely and in good areas and my hands were working well. All good.

"A hundred here was very special. I have scored loads of runs here for Nottinghamshire but none for England so to get a hundred here for England was pretty special."

Interestingly, where Kyle Mills, whose removal of Andrew Strauss with the help of a poor shot just after lunch sparked England's mini-collapse, felt the ball swung less than he had expected, Pietersen's view of conditions was rather different.

"The ball did enough all day and the only thing that helped us was that the wicket was slow," he said. "It seamed and nipped around all day and if the wicket had not been slow we would have been in trouble."

He had words of sympathy for Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood in their struggle for form but insisted there was no one he could think of to take the place of either.

"I saw a list of the top run scorers in the country today and none of them can touch Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood."