'Genius-like' Pietersen delights Vaughn

England captain Michael Vaughan was full of admiration for Kevin Pietersen after the Hampshire batsman added to his growing list of breathtaking one-day innings with a commanding 91 not out in Sunday’s triangular series victory against world champions Australia.

England was faltering in their pursuit of 253 but Pietersen saw them home at the County Ground.

He faced just 65 balls but struck four sixes and eight fours in a display of powerful and sometime unorthodox hitting as England won by three wickets with 15 balls to spare.

Defeat meant Australia had lost four one-day games in a week, including Saturday’s shocking five-wicket reverse against Bangladesh in Cardiff, one of the all-time great upset results.

Encouragingly for England, in a summer that climaxes with the Ashes, fast bowler Stephen Harmison ripped though the Australia top order on his way to five for 33, the first time the 26-year-old Durham quick had taken five wickets in a one-day international innings.

But his efforts would have counted for little had not Pietersen’s heroics secured England’s third straight one-day win against Australia after September’s ICC Champions trophy semi-final victory and Monday’s 100-run Twenty20 success.

“It’s very pleasing when you play Australia and play well against them,” said Vaughan after seeing his side go to the top of the triangular table with a perfect record, following Thursday’s 10-wicket thrashing of Bangladesh.

“To be honest, we didn’t chase well apart from this man [Pietersen]. It was a genius-like innings to get us over the line, three overs to spare and seven down.

“That’s special.
He’s played some great knocks and he’s only been in the team a short while. Today, in a pressure situation playing Australia, once Vikram Solanki got out, he had to see us home and to do that under that kind of pressure was fantastic.

“How good an innings is that? It is very difficult to say but from an England player, I haven’t seen any better.”

Pietersen (24), who made his mark with three one-day hundreds in his native South Africa, was left with an astounding average of 162,25 in one-day internationals after a performance that is bound to add fuel to the growing calls for him to be given a Test debut.

England was struggling at 119 for four in the 28th over but, together with Solanki and then local hero Jon Lewis, Pietersen finished the job in style.

“I’d never thought we’d lost it,” said the former KwaZulu-Natal batsman who in February needed just 69 balls ‒ an England record ‒ to score an unbeaten hundred against South Africa in East London.

“The boundaries here at Bristol are pretty small. I knew if I batted for another 15 overs, we’d get close. I never thought we were out of it, not even when Jon Lewis came in.”

Pietersen, who received plenty of abuse from spectators and South Africa players earlier this year after rejecting the Proteas because he feared a racial quota selection policy was holding him back, added: “Playing Australia is a huge challenge and I love to challenge myself against the best side in the world.”

Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who nearly ran out Pietersen with a direct hit when the batsman was on 34, was upbeat despite a defeat that left his side bottom of the table and below Bangladesh, themselves propping up the world one-day rankings.

“There was a lot of improvement today. The first 35 overs of our bowling innings were pretty good but we stumbled at the end.

“Kevin Pietersen played beautifully. I was pretty impressed with what he did today. An exceptional innings has taken the game away from us but there are a lot of positive signs for us.

“I was very satisfied with the way we batted through the middle of our innings through Michael Hussey [who made an ODI best of 84] and Michael Clarke [45] and we posted a total which I thought was defendable.”

Ponting added that all-rounder Andrew Symonds was set to be recalled for Australia’s next match, a day-night contest with England at Chester-le-Street on Thursday.

Symonds was banned for two games and fined for being out late on Friday evening ahead of the Bangladesh defeat.

Andrew is a big asset to us and the slate is wiped clean. He’s a world-class player so I’ll be surprised if he wasn’t playing.”

Australia have won the last eight Ashes series, but asked if England were gaining an edge ahead of the Test series ‑which starts in July ‒ Ponting replied: “If they keep beating us, they will but there are plenty of enough games left in this one-day tournament for us to get some momentum.”

The next triangular fixture sees England playing Bangladesh in a day-night game in Nottingham on Tuesday. ‑Sapa-AFP