After waiting three years for his eighth one-day hundred, Kevin Pietersen took three days to score the ninth. It could be reasonably concluded that his move to open the innings has been successful and last night he cajoled England to a 4-0 victory against Pakistan.
He used all the experience of 127 one-day internationals to secure his highest score of 130 as England completed an improbable clean sweep by four wickets with four balls to spare. It was by some distance the best match of the series, though that will be of no consolation to Pakistan whose star has plummeted to earth since they dominated the Test rubber.
In many ways, this was a better innings than his hundred in the third match – and he assessed it as it his best – because it needed him to control proceedings single-handedly almost from the start. Having given England a solid opening in the first three matches – their lowest partnership was 57 – the first-wicket pair were parted when Alastair Cook was out lbw to the second ball.
At 68 for 4 in the 15th over Pakistan seemed home and hosed. Saeed Ajmal had taken two wickets in three balls, including that of the debutant Jos Buttler, who stared into the headlight shining from the bowler, and England were staring down the barrel.
But Pietersen, calm, calculating and measuring precisely what he had to do, played with high skill on a slow pitch. It took him 153 balls, he hit 12 fours and two sixes but his rapidly-run singles and twos were vitally important.
"It's often been commented that I don't play the big situations," he said. "But I knew with the total they had that if I batted for 50 overs we'd come close. I just wanted to take the game deep and target some of their bowlers as well and that's what we did. You need experience to keep the situation very simple, back your ability and your work ethic."
Given crucial support by Craig Kieswetter in a fifth-wicket partnership of 109, the target of 238 gradually became attainable. Pietersen had one heart-stopping moment when he was given out lbw playing a switch hit when he was 80. He called for a review which showed the ball hit him outside off.
On 100, he might have been caught on the square-leg boundary but Abdur Rehman made a mess of the chance. It was a reminder of how England's fielding has been such a telling feature throughout. When it looked as though he and the newly confident Samit Patel would see England home, Pietersen was out, trying to finish it with a booming drive which squirted to point. But the job was done and he knew it.
This has been an unexpected win for England against opponents who had become accustomed to winning. They have been dominant in all three departments of the game. Cook and Pietersen each scored two hundreds.
Much altered though the bowling cohort was yesterday, its quality seemed barely diminished. For the fourth time in succession Pakistan were bowled out, a sequence never achieved by England before in a single series.
There were three changes in the attack, Tim Bresnan and Jade Dernbach coming in for Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad as part of the squad rotation policy. It is, of course, a policy much easier to invoke when a side has already won the series 3-0. Or, indeed, if they had been down 3-0, when it would be less being rotated than being dropped.
Danny Briggs, the 20-year-old left-arm spinner from the Isle of Wight, was summoned in place of Graeme Swann, rested because of tightness in a calf muscle. With due respect to the rotating seamers, this was more exciting.
He is the first cricketer from the Isle of Wight to play for England, which has seemed to be his destiny for some time. Throughout his 10 overs he barely turned a ball but he was as calm as you like in adjusting his pace and flight, and was rigidly accurate.
Briggs' first wicket was a good one, Umar Akmal, caught on the long-off boundary, and his second a little better, Shoaib Malik leg before sweeping. Briggs was the least expensive of England's bowlers as Pakistan made their highest total of the series. But it was another streamlined performance. Dernbach took four wickets, one with his second ball, two in the last over and the efficiency of his slower ball varieties seemed restored.
Bresnan looked a little rusty at times but he grew in fluency as the spell wore on and took a lovely running, swooping catch on the mid-wicket boundary to remove Shahid Afridi.
Steve Finn ended the series as he had played it throughout, with menace, and Samit Patel responded to the award of an increment contract by England with another well-rounded performance – well-rounded in all ways, it may be said.
After losing Cook, England then saw Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan depart too cheaply. Poor Buttler lasted two balls. Having negotiated his first from Ajmal, Buttler prodded forward hesitantly at the second and was caught as the ball went from inside edge to pad. It was not a great start to what may be a great career but Pietersen was ready and waiting to play a great innings.
Meanwhile, Cook is staying with the England squad for the series of three Twenty20 matches which begin tomorrow as cover for Ravi Bopara. Stuart Broad will continue to captain the side.
England ratings: From Test flops to one-day kings
Alastair Cook Still a work in progress as captain and ODI batsman but with his number of runs and victories almost deserved the top mark, a point being deducted only because of his second-ball dismissal last night. 9/10
Kevin Pietersen Appears to have taken to new role with gusto. Needed to make it work and has. 8
Jonathan Trott A quiet series for the batsman who has often been the mainstay. With a new breed on the horizon may need an extra gear. 5
Ravi Bopara Promoted to No 4 he played two stoic, important innings tailored to the needs of the situation. Experienced player now and can progress further. 8
Eoin Morgan Untypically quiet series for the confident Irishman, clearly feeling his way after injury which has led to exaggerated technique. 6
Craig Kieswetter Takes some spectacular catches but still makes crass mistakes behind. Much to do to be comfortable in middle order, though advanced in the final match. 6
Samit Patel Although not a frontline bowler, an accomplished player who is at last, but only just, beginning to learn the needs of fitness and preparation. 7
Graeme Swann No headlines all tour for the genial off-spinner, confronted by a legion of right-handers. Did his job in the middle overs. 7
Stuart Broad First-rate member of England's most potent attack in years, clever and incisive, a bowler at the top of his game. 8
Jimmy Anderson The arch-manipulator was a key member of England's formidable line-up, though he might not have played had Bresnan been fit. 8
Steve Finn Lovely to watch – tall frame, glides in, bowls fast and accurately. Recent progress remarkable and all things are possible for him now. 9
Played one match
Tim Bresnan Wily seamer who would probably have been in the tram from the start but for fitness. Batting role important but epitomises England's smart options.
Jade Dernbach Slower-ball practitioner with reverse-swing skill, still with plenty to learn at top level but has wicket-taking knack.
Jos Buttler Would have featured earlier but for cut hand. Genuine excitement surrounds him despite limp dismissal last night.
Danny Briggs Another being groomed for the 2015 World Cup, he found the surface to his liking last night and bridged the gap well between county cricket and top level.
Fourth one-day international; England beat Pakistan by four wickets. England win series 4-0; Pakistan won toss
Mohammad Hafeez c Kieswetter b Dernbach 1, 3 balls
Azhar Ali c Morgan b Dernbach 58, 89 balls 5 fours
Asad Shafiq b Bresnan 65, 78 balls 6 fours
Umar Akmal c Dernbach b Briggs 12, 21 balls 1 four
Shoaib Malik lbw b Briggs 23, 33 balls
*Misbah ul-Haq c Trott b Dernbach 46, 52 balls 1 four 1 six
Shahid Afridi c Bresnan b Finn 9, 10 balls 1 four
†Adnan Akmal run out 2, 2 balls
Abdur Rehman c Trott b Finn 12, 7 balls 2 fours
Saeed Ajmal b Dernbach 1, 5 balls
Junaid Khan not out 0, 0 balls
Extras (b1 lb4 w3) 8
Total (all out, 50 overs) 237
Bowling Finn 10-0-42-2, Dernbach 10-0-45-4, Bresnan 9-0-47-1, Briggs 10-0-39-2, Pietersen 1-0-4-0, S R Patel 10-0-55-0.
*A N Cook lbw b Junaid Khan 4, 2 balls 1 four
K P Pietersen c Abdur Rehman b Saeed Ajmal 130, 153 balls 12 fours 2 sixes
I J L Trott c Mohammad Hafeez b Abdur Rehman 15, 32 balls 2 fours
E J G Morgan lbw b Saeed Ajmal 15, 16 balls 1 four
J C Buttler c Azhar b Saeed Ajmal 0, 2 balls
†C Kieswetter run out 43, 62 balls 4 fours
S R Patel not out 17, 28 balls
T T Bresnan not out 4, 1 ball 1 four
Extras (lb3 w10) 13
Total (6 wkts, 49.2 overs) 241
Did not bat D R Briggs, S T Finn, J W Dernbach.
Bowling Junaid Khan 9.2-0-53-1, Abdur Rehman 10-0-31-1, Saeed Ajmal 10-0-62-3, Shahid Afridi 10-0-54-0, Mohammad Hafeez 10-0-38-0.
Umpires H D P K Dharmasena (S Lanka) & Zameer Haider (Pak).Reuse content