/ 22 April 2007

Pietersen gatecrashes Lara’s farewell

A Kevin Pietersen-inspired England kept their promise of winning the last World Cup match for coach Duncan Fletcher when they beat the West Indies by one wicket on Saturday.

In-form Pietersen smashed a robust 100 and skipper Michael Vaughan regained form with a timely 79 as England surpassed their rivals’ total of 300 with one ball to spare in a thrilling Super Eight ”match of farewells”.

It was also the last international appearance for West Indies captain Brian Lara, who would be disappointed with his team’s below-par bowling show in the second round.

England finished fifth and the West Indies sixth after defending champions Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa had qualified for the semifinals.

Vaughan had said his team desperately wanted to win the game for their coach, whose eight-year stint with England ended with this match. He himself led from the front with his first half-century in nine Cup matches.

England were struggling at 189-6 before Pietersen and Paul Nixon (38) put on 80 for the seventh wicket. Pietersen hammered one six and 10 fours in his 91-ball knock for his fifth century, and the second of the tournament.

They needed 45 to win off the last five overs with four wickets in hand, but Pietersen and wicketkeeper Nixon brought their team closer to victory with brilliant improvisation before Stuart Broad completed the job with a brace.

England were in control after Vaughan added 90 for the second wicket with Ravi Bopara (26) and 53 for the next with Pietersen, but a hat-trick of run-outs had put them on the back foot.

Pietersen put paid to the West Indies’ hopes with a gem of a knock. He received valuable support from Nixon.

West Indies opener Chris Gayle earlier gave a superb demonstration of power-hitting as he smashed three sixes and 10 fours in a 58-ball 79 for his first half-century of the tournament.

Gayle put on 131 for the opening wicket with Devon Smith (61), who played the supporting role remarkably well before falling to a superb one-handed catch by Paul Collingwood at point off paceman Andrew Flintoff.

Marlon Samuels (51) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (34) also made merry as the West Indies reached their highest total of the tournament.

But the biggest applause was reserved for Lara, who gave a few glimpses of his attractive stroke-play during his 17-ball 18 before being run out while responding to a call from hesitant Samuels.

Samuels initially charged for a single after pushing paceman Broad to mid-on before changing his mind. Lara was out of the crease when Pietersen hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end with an underarm throw.

Lara had arrived at the crease to a thunderous applause from a capacity 22 500 crowd at the Kensington Oval, hugging a returning Gayle on the way.

He opened his account with a single before hitting his first four, a square-drive off Flintoff bowling round the stumps. The England bowler then immediately tested Lara with a bouncer.

Lara flicked James Anderson for his second boundary and edged Flintoff for his third, which eluded Andrew Strauss’s outstretched right hand at the lone slip. Just when it looked he had settled down, he was run out.

The celebrating England cricketers, who had formed a guard of honour on his arrival, applauded him when he was returning to the pavilion.

Lara stopped, turned back, took off his helmet and raised his bat, acknowledging the applause from the crowd before walking back to the dressing-room. — AFP