Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pietersen helps England to 294

Kevin Pietersen marked his return to England's one-day side with 78 to help them reach 294 in the opening one-day international at the MCG, their highest score against the hosts in Australia, although the total could have been even stronger without some loose cbatting. Australia missed six clear-cut chances, including three stumpings by Brad Haddin, but managed to chip away regularly.
Pietersen's departure came four balls into the batting Powerplay and meant England couldn't make the most of the fielding restrictions. Tim Bresnan played sensibly for his 28, which included a neat pull off a Brett Lee slower-ball bouncer, but consistent with the pattern of the innings carved to third man just before his job was done. However, a late six apiece for Ajmal Shahzad and Chris Tremlett pushed them close to the 300 mark.
Andrew Strauss had set a solid platform with 63 but it was vital somebody controlled the middle of the innings after he fell. This was Pietersen's first fifty-plus score in one-dayers since he made an unbeaten 111 at Cuttack in November 2008, although due to injury and being dropped he has only had 17 innings in that period. Still, having been brought back at the expense of Paul Collingwood, who paid for his poor Ashes form, he needed to justify that faith and it went to plan until Mitchell Johnson's superb soccer skills found him well short.
England were gifted a 90-run opening stand in 12 overs by some loose bowling and shoddy fielding but after that they gave wickets away steadily. Pietersen and Ian Bell added 43 for the fourth wicket before Steve Smith struck two important blows by having both Bell and Eoin Morgan (8) caught at cover during a three-over spell to leave England 5 for 186 in the 33rd.
However, Haddin had a shocking day and the third of his misses reprieved Pietersen on 37 moments after the loss of Morgan. Pietersen yorked himself against David Hussey, but Haddin couldn't gather an opportunity that would have left England battling to reach 250. Instead, Pietersen responded with consecutive straight sixes off Hussey to move to his fifty and later added a third when he drilled Xavier Doherty into the sightscreen.
Michael Yardy helped Pietersen add 50 for the sixth wicket to steady the innings although Yardy's contribution was just 9 when he pulled to deep square-leg. Pietersen responded to the dismissal with a frustrated slam of his bat into his pad, a rare show of emotion at a team-mate's failure.
Steve Davies was the main beneficiary of Australia's earlier generosity as he was handed four lives. He should have become the second batsman, after Simon Katich in the Test at Adelaide, to fall for a diamond duck during this tour, but Smith couldn't hit the stumps with his flick from about a meter away after gathering a return from short fine-leg.
Two overs later Lee thought he'd broken through when Davies pulled to deep square-leg but the umpire, Bruce Oxenford, wanted to check for a no-ball and Lee was well over the line. Things got no better for Australia when Shane Watson failed to hold a sharp chance at short cover and Brad Haddin missed a stumping with Davies on 24.
As well as chances being spurned there was little control from the bowlers. Bollinger's first spell cost 24 and Johnson's opening two overs went for 20 as Michael Clarke used five options in the first 10 overs. It needed David Hussey to restore some order when he bowled Davies and had Jonathan Trott (6) caught behind.
The onus was then on Strauss to anchor the innings and he, too, was given a life on 48 when Haddin missed a regulation stumping off Doherty before reaching fifty from 51 balls. However, as with the Twenty20, the pitch was on the slow side and it was this lack of pace that brought Strauss's downfall when he was early on his shot against Lee.
It will annoy the England captain that he didn't show the way by converting his solid effort into three figures, but this total will be a tough test for Australia.

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