Whoever writes Kevin Pietersen's scripts was in routinely resplendent form yesterday. A deposed captain, a sun-kissed day, a lovely ground, a happy holiday crowd, a small point to make, a century: the dialogue flowed.
Pietersen used a bludgeon. He was not at his most fluent, but then against St Kitts & Nevis he had no need to be. From the moment he entered he had no intention of hanging about. Fifty came in 41 balls, 100 in 90 with his 13th four, off driven, to which were added three sixes. The first of the trio was his off-the-mark shot, a sweep over square, another employed the switch hit. He was in his element: at one point, he was advising his opponents where they might profitably set their field.
It was not quite vintage stuff – though a new, over-the-shoulder shot was unveiled for the first time – but it was written in the stars. If he was happy doing what he does best he was not so ecstatic in talking about it. Pietersen has clearly been deeply hurt, not only by the loss of the captaincy but also by the manner of the loss and the way in which his character was, often quite wrongly, publicly dismantled day after day following revelations of the rift between him and the erstwhile coach, Peter Moores.
"After everything that has happened it feels pretty satisfying to get a hundred," he said. "It has been frustrating because I did everything by the book. But it is done and dusted, I just want to get back in the dressing room with the lads and there is no better place to do that than the Caribbean."
If Pietersen remains unhappy with his treatment at the hands of the ECB, he is also troubled by what was written and spoken about him. The scars might not have shown in his batting but the engaging, helpful Pietersen has gone into cold storage for the moment.
Speaking to a clutch of reporters, he said: "What you guys did to me really hurt me. I love to entertain, I love batting. I love scoring runs for England. I'd like a few questions to be answered for everything to be gone, but time is healing.
"I loved doing the job but there are no dramas with Andrew Strauss as captain now. I think that one of my frustrations is that what I wanted he's got, but at the end of the day I'm not in charge. To get back playing and scoring a hundred is what turns me on."
There is poignancy in the fact that Strauss's wish list, probably similar in many details to Pietersen's, has been granted almost in full. A robot's feelings would suffer given those circumstances and Pietersen is palpably far from a robot.
But if it was business as usual for the former captain, his replacement's first official duties did not pass as they might in his dreams the night before. The second ball from Calvin Williams reared from the back of a length, caught the shoulder of Strauss's bat and looped high and certainly to third slip. The dismissal immediately prompted suggestions that the burdens of captaincy were affecting Strauss's batting form. Most droll. Pretty soon after kicking the dressing-room cat, Strauss's mood may not have lightened on seeing what he was missing out on. The pitch at Warner Park was slow, the seam bowling was gentle.
There was a hundred too for Owais Shah. It might have been a selector-nudging hundred because Ian Bell's contribution of 36, in which he pootled along with great aplomb, should not have ended when it did. The opposition were of the friendly and strictly warm-up variety, containing only five players with first-class experience.
This fixture does not constitute a first-class match, although Strauss's England at least leant it some proper dignity by asking for it to be 11-a-side. So keen have recent England sides been to give everybody a go that preliminary matches have been of 13 or 14 -a-side. Strauss is having no truck with such nonsense.
England were doing much as they liked until the introduction half an hour before lunch of the leg-spinner Akito Willett. Bell failed narrowly to get the measure of an attempted drive, Willett parried it with his right hand above his head and caught it with his left as it fell. In the next over he struck again, this time with a beauty. The ball held in the air where it deceived Cook, and then ripped through the batsman's bat and pad. Willett took five wickets in all – as Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior and Adil Rashid all got in to get out, while Stephen Harmison made merry with a half-century – and had a very happy day.
St Kitts scoreboard
England won toss; first day of three
England – First Innings
*A J Strauss c Mitchum b Williams......... 0
A N Cook b Willett......... 52
I R Bell c and b Willett......... 36
K P Pietersen st Simmonds b Willett......... 103
O A Shah not out......... 125
A Flintoff c Rogers b Liburd......... 11
†M J Prior c Rogers b Willett......... 16
A U Rashid c Mitchum b Willett......... 6
S J Harmison c Boland b Mitchum......... 58
Extras (b3 lb3 w4 nb7)......... 17
Total (for 8, 91.5 overs)......... 424
Fall: 1-0 2-96 3-103 4-257 5-292 6-318 7-337 8-424.
To bat: J M Anderson, M S Panesar.
Bowling: Williams 10-2-35-1; Boland 8-0-56-0; Powell 14-3-39-0; Ward 16-1-81-0; Willett 24-3-118-5; Jeffers 4-0-31-0; Liburd 14-1-54-1; Mitchum 1.5-0-5-1.
St Kitts & Nevis Invitation XI: *S M Jefferson, †J M Simmonds, K K Tyson, S S W Liburd, J A Mitchum, C L Rogers, E J Powell, T R Ward, A E Willett, C A Williams, N A Boland.
Umpires: A L Kelly and W Mitchum.Reuse content