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Page last updated at 17:33 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 18:33 UK

Pietersen ton puts England on top

FIRST TEST, Lord's, day one (close): England 309-3 v South Africa

By Jamie Lillywhite

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen was quick to dominate and play shots against all the bowlers

Kevin Pietersen's magnificent unbeaten 104 lifted England to 309-3 after day one of the first Test at Lord's.

In his first Test against South Africa, Pietersen's classic 13th Test century was recorded with his 13th four.

He shared a key unbroken stand of 192 with Ian Bell, who made a fluent 75 not out, after three wickets had fallen for three runs in 13 balls after lunch.

Andrew Strauss (44) and Alastair Cook (60) set the tone with a fine 114 stand after South Africa had chosen to bowl.

It was a marvellous innings from Pietersen, given the huge amount of hype about playing against the country of his birth.

As so often, it was full of inventive strokeplay, working the ball from outside off-stump through mid-wicket, but it might have been very different after a typically eventful start.

Having been 'welcomed' to the crease by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, who went out of his way to have his say when Pietersen walked to the wicket, the England batsman very nearly ran himself out for nought, so desperate was he to get off the mark.

The single to mid-wicket was injudicious, and Makhaya Ntini's throw, had it not missed by a fraction, would have seen Pietersen comfortably short of his ground.

Then he ducked into a skidding short ball from Dale Steyn and was felled as it thudded into his helmet, but he was soon playing in forthright fashion, particularly severe on left-arm spinner Paul Harris, and employing the sweep to good effect with his wide reach.

Bell's role was also critical, coming to the crease after that flurry of wickets.

He stroked his first ball calmly through the covers for four and made a fluent start, before sensibly providing the foil for his effervescent partner.

The tourists had nine overs with the new ball before stumps but could not find the breakthrough they needed, and the brilliant partnership ensured a good day for England.

Michael Vaughan
Vaughan had no answer when Steyn found the perfect ball to swing away

Much had been made of the South African pace attack, and even though they decided not to make it five quicks and opted to retain Harris, Graeme Smith was hoping to blast out some early wickets when he won the toss.

But it quickly emerged that the pitch was a lot slower than expected, although Steyn and Morne Morkel, playing a Test at Lord's for the first time, struggled to find the correct line.

Even Makhaya Ntini, who took five wickets in each innings when South Africa beat England by an innings and 92 runs in their last Test at Lord's in 2003, could not trouble the batsmen, apart from his high-pitched chirruping whilst fielding.

The only early deliveries that swung appreciably were those so wide they presented more of a danger to first slip than the batsmen.

The England openers gave their side an excellent platform, however, watchful in defence and positive on singles and when seizing on loose deliveries.

Cook enjoyed a moment of fortune from the first ball after drinks when an inside edge bounced inches over the stumps, but too often he was offered too much width by the bowlers and he took full advantage.

BBC Sport's Jonathan Agnew
Steyn, who bowled only three overs in an tight opening spell, changed ends for another burst shortly before lunch but the discussions in the away dressing room would have been interesting as England reached the interval on 71-0.

The batsmen remained in control, until the unfortunate Strauss, who had just played some fluent drives down the ground, was given lbw to one that pitched outside leg-stump, umpire Daryl Harper, not for the first time, with an error of judgement.

All that Steyn might have been missing is the chance to bowl at right-handers, because when Michael Vaughan came to the crease he immediately began to find the deadly late swing at pace that had brought him 120 wickets from his first 23 Tests.

Some critics may say that Vaughan might have done better as he pushed forward, but rapid curve away from the bat and into the off-stump would have defeated most batsmen.

When Cook was startled by a sharply lifting ball from Morkel that caught the bat handle and looped to slip, it was suddenly 117-3 and a major partnership was needed.

It was exactly what was delivered by Pietersen and Bell.

Aside from the stunning shots, Pietersen survived a confdent lbw appeal from Harris on 92 when umpire Billy Bowden made an excellent decision to judge that he had been hit outside the line of off-stump.

After the century Bowden was again on the mark to reject another appeal that was outside the line and probably too high from Steyn.

The four-match series promised much and the opening day gave every indication that it would not disappoint.

see also
Jonathan Agnew column
10 Jul 08 |  Cricket
Pietersen and Bell excel
10 Jul 08 |  England
South Africa in England in 2008
14 Nov 07 |  Cricket

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