A washout prevented a whitewash here in Cardiff last night when frequent heavy showers caused England's fifth and final NatWest series match against South Africa to be abandoned, a result that ended Kevin Pietersen's hopes of leading his side to only their second ever 5-0 one-day series victory.
Squalls restricted a sizeable and patient crowd to just three overs of play, time enough for Stuart Broad to dismiss Herschelle Gibbs via a brilliant diving one-handed catch from Matthew Prior, a wicket that reduced South Africa to 6-1.
The rain prevented the ground from successfully hosting its first international match since undergoing a £10m redevelopment. An ambitious and lucrative bid by Glamorgan persuaded the England and Wales Cricket Board to play the first of next summers five Ashes Tests here, but the weather prevented the county from getting the dry run it wanted.
The awful weather provided the ground staff with a horrible day and an area of the facilities that does need to improve is the covering, which was rather amateurish compared to those at other Test grounds. The Swalec Stadium is not blessed with a hover-cover, a single 25-metre long cover that can be quickly moved to the pitch when rain arrives. The groundstaff had to push three small individual covers to the middle before returning to the boundary to bring tarpaulin sheets out. The process takes time, time in which grassless used pitches become muddy and unfit for play. The set-up prevented the quick removal of the covers and restart of play too, delays that would receive huge criticism should they happen in next summer's Ashes.
Victory here would not only have seen England emulate a feat they achieved in Zimbabwe in seven years ago; it would have resulted in the team overtaking their opponents, South Africa, and becoming the number two ranked one-day side in the world, a position they have never held before. But the failure to achieve such targets should not detract from Kevin Pietersen's side have achieved in the past fortnight. South Africa may not have supplied England with the challenge they were expecting but the quality of the cricket played by the hosts should not be underestimated.
In the opening four matches of the series everything Pietersen and England have tried has come off, whether it be Owais Shah batting at three, Pietersen down to four, Andrew Flintoff moving up to five, Samit Patel replacing Graeme Swann or Stephen Harmison returning to the side. Much of the success can be attributed to Pietersen, who has been decisive, positive and organised, but for many the jury on him as England captain is still out. Tougher challenges, which will undoubtedly test his personality, lie ahead, but his handling of the team has, to date, been faultless.
The changes he has made have not only been bold, they have made sense. Shah has the range of stroke and cheek to bat at three and make the most of the 'Powerplays', periods when the field pacing of the on-field captain is restricted greatly, at the start of a match. And it would be a waste to see Pietersen, England's best batsman, throw his wicket away searching for quick runs during these 'Powerplays'. England need their captain to build an innings and bat for 35 overs, time in which he could easily score a hundred.
Pietersen's handling of Flintoff has been superb. He has entered the relationship with no baggage, forgetting 'Fredalo' and his indiscretions of the past. Pietersen has shown faith in him and laid responsibility at his feet. Flintoff has responded magnificently and his return has been a huge boost, arguably as important as the appointment of Pietersen as captain. Flintoff has batted and bowled with intelligence, providing Pietersen with the fulcrum around which his tactics are based. Flintoff is a captain's dream, in that he gives his all every time he has bat or ball in his hand. There have and will continue to be occasions when he does not produce the results everyone wants, but this one-day series has given a timely reminder of what he is capable of.
The presence of Flintoff has allowed Pietersen to instil self-belief in the team. With Freddie in the side and in form the England team believe anything is possible. Pietersen has also told players of the roles he wants them to fill and what he expects. His clear vision has removed uncertainty, a state of mind that can undermine any player. He has empowered them and it has so far brought great, if unexpected, reward.
l Nottinghamshire took charge of their top-of-the-table LV County Championship clash with Somerset in a rain-interrupted first day at Trent Bridge. Seamer Charlie Shreck removed Somerset skipper Justin Langer with the first ball as he passed 50 Championship wickets for the season, while Darren Pattinson picked up three victims in 20 balls. All-rounder Andre Adams removed the dangerous Marcus Trescothick and Craig Kieswetter as the visitors stumbled to 143 for 7 at the close.Reuse content