Sri Lanka 141 & 86-4 England 295: Pietersen's pyrotechnics leave tourists seeing stars

Kevin Pietersen would have been slightly embarrassed by the celebrations that followed the completion of his fourth Test hundred here yesterday, even though his wonderful innings had taken England to the verge of a comprehensive victory over Sri Lanka.

For a young man who takes great pride in being fashionable, dropping your bat in the middle of an ecstatic, punching the air leap was rather uncool. Yet it proved to be the only moment on the second day of the second Test that Pietersen was not in full control of the tool he uses to ply his trade.

Pietersen was awesome yesterday as he propelled England to a winning position. His 142 contained an astonishing array of strokes, each of which was lapped up by a capacity crowd. On 20 occasions the ball sped to the boundary and on three it disappeared straight into the spectators. The best stroke was an astonishing reverse sweep off Muttiah Muralitharan that flew over cover point and into the Eric Hollies Stand for six.

It was just as well for the home side that Pietersen did bat with such authority because the next highest score by an England batsman was 30. Whilst he was in full swing England looked destined to post a total in excess of 400, but much of the advantage was thrown away when five wickets were lost for the addition of five runs in 29 balls.

England's total of 295 gave them a first innings lead of 154, a sizeable advantage on a pitch that only one batsman has been able to master, and by the close Sri Lanka had reduced the deficit to 68 by reaching 86 for 4.

Matthew Hoggard once again gave England a perfect start when he dismissed Upul Tharanga in the first over of Sri Lanka's reply. But with the sun shining Flintoff was forced to turn to his spinner, Monty Panesar, who responded magnificently. There are aspects of Panesar's cricket that receive criticism but his potential as a bowler is clear to see, and he fully deserved the two wickets he claimed before the close.

Panesar struck in his first over when Kumar Sangakkara chipped one to Paul Collingwood at mid-wicket, and his flight and guile proved to be too alluring for Thilan Samaraweera, who danced down the pitch and was stumped by Geraint Jones. In between Hoggard dismissed the Sri Lankan captain, Mahela Jayawardene, with a ball that kept worryingly low.

England's bowlers would have been delighted to take four wickets as it would have lessened the fury of their coach, Duncan Fletcher, who will be livid with the way in which his lower order capitulated.

Predictably, it was Muralitharan who instigated England's collapse. There were times when Pietersen treated him like a club bowler but he underlined his class by collecting the 52nd five-wicket haul of his Test career.

When Pietersen is in this sort of form and mood it is almost impossible to bowl at him. There are very few areas where the ball can be hidden and he has the power and range of stroke to hit it wherever he wants.

Overnight rain delayed the start of play by 80 minutes and the damp conditions forced Pietersen to be watchful whilst he played himself in. Pietersen was fortunate to survive a close lbw appeal from Muralitharan when he was on 55, but there was nothing lucky about his batting after lunch.

The first post-interval shot of note deposited Nuwan Kulasekara over mid-wicket for six, and Farveez Maharoof was treated with equal hostility. Pietersen's style has been compared to that of Viv Richards but there are shots he plays that the great West Indian would not even consider. The bewildering reverse-sweep for six off Muralitharan was an example of this. It was one of the most amazing shots I have ever seen.

But it is the top-spin whips through mid-on that leave fast bowlers scratching their heads, and Maharoof was dispatched in this manner on two occasions.

Muralitharan rates Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar as the two best batsmen he has bowled at but it cannot be long before Pietersen's name is added to the list. Pietersen scored 158 against Sri Lanka at Lord's and he looked set to pass his career best score here when he clubbed Muralitharan for three consecutive boundaries.

Pietersen's success is not based solely on power and confidence. He also shows wonderful touch and this can be seen in the way that he worked Muralitharan into gaps in the field.

As a big man Pietersen possesses a long reach but there are times when his arms seem to extend almost telescopically as he turns a good length ball into a half volley.

But Pietersen's fun, along with that of the crowd, who booed when Darrell Hair gave him out lbw after he missed a sweep at Muralitharan, ended when England had reached 290. Andrew Flintoff, who seemed determined not to get in a hitting contest with Pietersen, went in the next over when he missed a loose push at Lasith Malinga.

Liam Plunkett chipped Muralitharan to mid-on in the next over to give the bowler his fifth wicket, and Geraint Jones became the spinner's sixth victim when he top-edged a sweep.

Panesar was trapped plumb in front for nought, but his disappointment would have been overtaken by the joy of taking two late wickets.

Scoreboard from Edgbaston

Second npower Test

England v Sri Lanka

(Edgbaston; second day of five)

Sri Lanka won toss

Sri Lanka - First Innings 141

England - First Innings

(Overnight: 138 for 3)

K P Pietersen lbw b Muralitharan 142

226min, 157 balls, 20 fours, 3 sixes

M J Hoggard b Vaas 3

51min, 36 balls

P D Collingwood c Tharanga b Muralitharan 19

71min, 47 balls, 2 fours

*A Flintoff b Malinga 9

63min, 48 balls, 1 four

ÝG O Jones c Samaraweera b Muralitharan 4

18min, 12 balls

L E Plunkett c Vandort b Muralitharan 0

7min, 6 balls

S I Mahmood not out 0

12min, 1 ball

M S Panesar lbw b Malinga 0

5min, 7 balls

Extras (b6, lb13, nb14, pens5) 38

Total (347min, 78.3 overs) 295

Fall (cont): 4-169 (Hoggard), 5-238 (Collingwood), 6-290 (Pietersen), 7-290 (Flintoff), 8-293 (Plunkett), 9-294 (Jones), 10-295 (Panesar).

Bowling: Vaas 16-6-30-1 (6-2-12-0; 7-3-16-1; 3-1-2-0); Malinga 13.3-2-68-2 (nb5) (3-1-11-0; 2-0-19-0; 3-0-26-0; 2-0-6-0; 3.3-1-6-2); Maharoof 11-3-42-0 (nb4) (8-3-22-0; 3-0-20-0); Muralitharan 25-2-86-6 (nb4) (9-1-24-2; 5-0-22-0; 11-1-40-4); Kulasekara 13-2-45-0 (nb1) (3-0-9-0; 6-1-11-0; 4-1-25-0).

Progress: First day: 50: 65min, 14.5 overs. 100: 118min, 25.3 overs. Close: 138-3 (Pietersen 30, Hoggard 2) 34 overs. Second day: rain delayed start until 12.20pm. 150: 170mins, 38.1 overs. Late lunch taken at 1.30pm: 193-4 (Pietersen 65, Collingwood 10) 51 overs. 200: 235min, 53.1 overs. 250: 281min, 64.1 overs. Innings closed 4.12pm: late tea taken.

Pietersen's 50: 79min, 54 balls, 7 fours, 1 six. 100: 163min, 115 balls, 16 fours, 1 six.

Sri Lanka - Second Innings

M G Vandort not out 30

167 min, 120 balls, 3 fours

W U Tharanga c G O Jones b Hoggard 0

3 min, 1 ball

ÝK C Sangakkara c Collingwood b Panesar 18

61 min, 40 balls, 3 fours

*D P M D Jayawardene lbw b Hoggard 5

27 min, 18 balls, 1 four

T T Samaraweera st G O Jones b Panesar 8

24 min, 22 balls, 1 four

T M Dilshan not out 21

48 min, 40 balls, 3 fours

Extras (lb3 nb1) 4

Total (for 4, 167min, 40 overs) 86

Fall: 1-2 (Tharanga), 2-38 (Sangakkara), 3-43 (Jayawardene), 4-56 (Samaraweera).

To bat: M F Maharoof, W P U C J Vaas, K M D N Kulasekara, S L Malinga, M Muralitharan.

Bowling: Hoggard 9-4-14-2 (nb1) (5-2-11-1; 4-2-3-1); Flintoff 7-2-17-0 (2-1-2-0; 2-0-9-0; 3-1-6-0); Plunkett 7-4-10-0; Panesar 13-3-39-2; Mahmood 4-2-3-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Second day: 50: 106mins, 24.1 overs.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and D B Hair (Aus).

TV replay umpire: I J Gould.

Match referee: A G Hurst.

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