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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January 2005, 11:58 GMT
Pietersen enters South Africa cauldron
By Matt Majendie

For a man who lists travelling abroad as his ideal way to relax, Kevin Pietersen's latest foray around the globe hardly seems the best way to unwind.

Kevin Pietersen
When the South African-born 24-year-old came out to bat for England in their one-day warm-up game in Kimberley he was greeted by a chorus of boos.

The crowd's negativity only worsened as Pietersen hit 97 off 84 balls against South Africa A.

The Hampshire hard-hitter looks set for an even worse reception when the seven-match series gets under way on Sunday in the wake of his change of alliegance.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith recently said: "He ran out when things got tough. If he didn't want to be here then we don't want him here."

Pietersen qualified for England by virtue of his English-born mother and three years residency playing for previous county Nottinghamshire.

He left the country of his birth in 2001 after becoming disillusioned with South Africa's selection quota system.

He's the most exciting prospect on the county circuit
Shane Warne
Hampshire captain
After that, it was a matter of when, not if, he would receive his call-up by England's selectors.

He finally qualified for selection last September and was immediately called up for the four-match one-day series against Zimbabwe.

His unbeaten 77 in the second one-dayer, which earned him the man of the match award, threw him immediately into the limelight.

And when Andrew Flintoff flew back to England on Thursday, Pietersen was immediately marked out as the team's match-winner-in-chief, with the ability to turn a game in an instant.

The style of his latest knock against South Africa A, during which 60 of his runs came from boundaries, shows that tag seems well warranted.

To date, he has been modest of his achievements. Of his England selection, he told BBC Sport: "Now I have to concentrate on what I do on the field... and try to cement a place in the one-day side."

And of the chance to face his homeland, he said simply that it would be "fantastic".

Born: 27 June 1980
Pietermaritzberg, SA
One-day caps: Two
104 runs @ 104
First class runs: 5512 @ 54.03
Nicknames: KP, Kelv, Kapes
Career highlight: "Being selected for England"
Cricket heros: Shaun Pollock, Errol Stewart

But he brushed off his hostile reception in South Africa, saying "he couldn't control anything off the field".

It remains to be seen with what speed and efficiency the self-confessed Formula One nut can climb the international ranks, or even match Flintoff's achievements with the bat.

His county pedigree would suggest easily. Among his best knocks were an unbeaten 254 against Middlesex in 2002 and his 221 against Warwickshire the following year.

As a result, the praise has flowed from all quarters, most noticeably from new club skipper Shane Warne, who hailed him as "the most exciting prospect on the county circuit".

Should he impress in the one-dayers, and with Graham Thorpe reaching his Test twilight years, the opportunity for an Ashes call-up could yet come.

"If the opportunity comes for Test matches, then I'll take that as well," said Pietersen.

For all his promise, if there is a fault to the 6ft 4ins part-time spinner, it is his ability to rile people.

Smith and much of the South African public remain disgruntled at his defection to the northern hemisphere.

And Pietersen also had an acrimonious split with Nottinghamshire after reportedly falling out with his team-mates and then joining Hampshire.

Once the series starts, England can only hope he continues to worsen South Africa's already dim view of him.

Interview: England's Kevin Pietersen

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