Rain cuts off Ian Bell in prime as Kevin Pietersen takes the mic

England 37-0 South Africa (Match abandoned)

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The Independent Online

For a period that was all too brief yesterday Ian Bell batted gloriously. It would have been fascinating to hear what Kevin Pietersen had to say about his splendid cameo of an innings which yielded 26 runs from 18 balls, containing two sixes and two fours.

Unfortunately, the pariah of English cricket has yet to begin his duties as a television pundit, so viewers were denied his judgements of Bell's rampant exhibition. It included a six struck inside out over long-off, another picked up over mid-wicket and a four outrageously flicked from outside off stump to long leg.

These were strokes more normally associated with Pietersen himself and presumably he would have been purring at one of his erstwhile colleagues replicating his panache. Bell was cut off in his pomp with the match finally abandoned – after six attempts to get it under way – after only 33 balls.

England, invited to bat in the morning shortly after receiving the ICC shield for being the world's top-ranked one-day team, were 37 for 0 when the opening game in the NatWest Series was at last put out of its misery.

Under the regulations for the series there was simply not enough time left to squeeze in the required 40 overs to make it an official ODI. At least the spectators are entitled to a full refund on their tickets. Another 27 balls and it would have been reduced to half.

Alastair Cook, Bell's opening partner, had scratched his way to a more sedate 10 from 15 balls. If Bell was a redeeming feature it was one of those unsatisfactory cricketing occasions.

The teams regroup for the second match at Southampton on Tuesday, so England can be sure of staying number one for a few days longer. If the tourists win, they take possession of the shield but would then have to hand it back if England eventually win the series. Only in cricket could such a scheme be given credibility.

It is a quality that England must be praying that Pietersen demonstrates in his latest incarnation. In yet another bizarre turn, he has been recruited by ESPN Star Sports as one of their panel of expert pundits during the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, to which the broadcaster holds the television rights.

There are precedents for players under central contract to broadcast on England matches. Both Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson have done so when out injured.

England had no official comment to make, though are bound to be privately apprehensive about what Pietersen might say. The line he must tread is extremely fine. He signed the deal during his brief retirement from limited-overs cricket a month ago.

Although that has since been rescinded, he has not been selected for England's squad in the World Twenty20 next month, because of his dispute with the England and Wales Cricket Board. He was dropped for the last Test against South Africa after it was revealed he sent text messages to the tourists for which he has since apologised.