Third Test, Trent Bridge (day one, close)
England 273-7 v New Zealand
Pietersen showed signs of his free-flowing best with classic improvisation
A magnificent 12th Test century from Kevin Pietersen helped England to 273-7 after day one of the final Test against New Zealand at Trent Bridge.
England, who lead the series 1-0, were 86-5 after losing Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood in 13 balls.
But Pietersen (115) hit 14 fours and shared 161 in 50 overs with Tim Ambrose (67) to rescue England's innings.
Iain O'Brien had both batsmen caught behind as the visitors fought back with the new ball in the closing stages.
It was a welcome return of the Pietersen of old, taking the attack to the bowlers and beginning to play with the unorthodox freedom he showed in the early stages of his international career.
On the ground where he spent his formative years in English cricket with Nottinghamshire, he had previously failed to reach fifty in six Test innings.
But at times he was working the ball through mid-wicket in virtuoso fashion, although he was forced to begin in watchful fashion for the slowest of his Test hundreds after the Kiwis had grabbed two wickets in the opening 13 overs to help justify their decision to bowl first.
Much was made of the revolutionary new trousers New Zealand were to pioneer, with a different textured top half to help shine the ball.
They will not be rolled out until October, but even without them the tourists still managed to find some early movement, although they were aided by some indifferent shots from the England top order.
Alastair Cook again seemed out of sorts and was feeling for the ball outside off-stump, a hesitant prod fizzing off the inside edge through a large gap between bat and pad to uproot his leg stump.
The wicket of Strauss led to a dramatic England collapse after lunch
Michael Vaughan's innings began with three unplayable deliveries from Kyle Mills, zipping away in the air and off the seam.
In the next over some loose ones from an ineffective Chris Martin allowed him to get off the mark with three boundaries in an over, featuring some classical drives, but Vaughan too was soon beaten after leaving a chasm between blade and leg guard.
Strauss, full of confidence after his century in the victory at Old Trafford, took his team calmly to 84-2 at lunch, but in the first over after the interval edged a very wide delivery high to first slip.
Two players who both should have been dismissed in the previous Test at Old Trafford but who guided England to victory, this time were both dismissed without scoring.
Bell played all round a full delivery, and a dejected Collingwood, who has scored just 63 runs for club and country this summer, was flat-footed as he nicked to slip.
Ambrose opened his account with a cut for four to bring up the 100 in the 36th over, and though he demonstrated his liking for width with a century in New Zealand last winter, the Kiwis still gave him too much room outside the off-stump.
Even Daniel Vettori, who had such a stranglehold over England for much of the Old Trafford Test, could not build pressure against Pietersen and Ambrose, not helped by the slow surface and failing to record a maiden.
The placid pitch also caused occasional problems for Pietersen, who would have liked more pace to play his shots, but there were still some strokes to savour, none more so than the emphatic extra cover drive that brought up his century.
Eight overs before the close he gave a maiden catch tp debutant wicket-keeper Gareth Hopkins, who took Brendon McCullum's place behind the stumps after the first-choice wicket-keeper opted to play as a batsman only because of a bad back.
Ambrose seemed set for a second century against the Kiwis but the cut shot that brought him a healthy percentage of runs proved to be his downfall.
England have gone 11 Tests without posting 400 in the first innings, and though Stuart Broad struck some promising shots, he has much to do on Friday, with far from the ideal supporting cast, if they are to end that run.