“I don’t have to prove any points. I just want to enjoy my cricket.” So said Kevin Pietersen after his powerful 111 not out that helped England on their way to a convincing nine-wicket win over Pakistan in the third ODI, giving his side an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.
The truth, however, was that England’s swashbuckling batsman was under intense scrutiny before the day’s play, having scored only 67 runs in England’s miserable Test series loss, and again flattered to deceive as opener in the first two one-day games.
Whether he felt the pressure or not, it wasn’t evident in a display of controlled aggression that included only two sixes in an opening stand of 170 with fellow opener Alastair Cook.
Pietersen seemed surprised after the game when he was informed that it was his first One-Day ton in over three-and-a-half years, and insisted that he never doubted that he was “in good nick.”
It means that a confident KP is 7/2 to finish as top England run scorer in the fourth and final ODI on Tuesday. Yet a quick look at his previous century – coincidentally another unbeaten 111 – suggest that one swallow certainly does not make a summer when it comes to Pietersen’s form.
His last ODI century was against India in 2008, when Pietersen was still England skipper. Back then, he was only able to follow that up with three scores of under 20 against the West Indies.
It was a similar story earlier in 2008, when his impressive 110 not out at Chester-le-Street against New Zealand was succeeded by 13, 4, 0 and 6 in the same series.
Despite his bullish mood, it would be hard for Pietersen to disagree that these stats point to a form of complacency that creeps into the batsman’s game after a successful knock.
Instead, it’s hard to look past the in-form skipper, Alastair Cook, as a model of batting consistency. For someone whose One-Day credentials were often questioned not so long ago, it says much for his dogged spirit and no lack of talent that Cook was only 20 runs yesterday from becoming the first English batsman to score three consecutive ODI centuries.
Indeed his last ODI century before this series, 119 against Sri Lanka at Lords, was followed up with a 95 not out at Nottingham in the following game. At 3/1, Captain Cook looks the best bet to once again lead by example and finish on top of the pile for England.