Friday 22 August 2008 

England Take 1-0 Series Lead With Polished Display

1st ODI, Headingley: England (275-4) beat South Africa (255) by 20 runs

Kevin Pietersen's honeymoon period as England captain continued as his side put in a fine performance to end South Africa's run of nine One Day International wins in a row in the first match between the two sides at Headingley.

A late innings surge from Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff propelled England to a score of 275 for four before Steve Harmison made an effective return from retirement as South Africa were bowled out for 255 with Pietersen leading the way in the field as he had with the bat earlier on.

After winning the toss, Pietersen (90 not out) and Flintoff (78) came together with England stuttering on 113 for three in the 29th over but a combination of brutal hitting, assured running, and a below-par fielding performance from South Africa helped put the home side back on top.

England had batted from the 22nd over until the 35th without hitting a boundary but the 158-run stand between the pair put that to rights as Flintoff hit nine fours in his innings of 78 from 70 balls.

Pietersen hit seven fours and a big six off over long on, making his way to his 19th ODI half-century and once again looking under no pressure batting as captain of his country.

The same could not be said of openers Matt Prior and Ian Bell, who both fell in similar circumstances, caught by AB De Villiers at backward point off of Jacques Kallis.

Prior was the more fluent of the pair, hitting five fours and a straight six but he was dropped twice in his 52-ball innings of 42 while Bell laboured to 35 from 69 balls with no boundaries.

Shah, promoted to number three as Pietersen feels he is wasted at number six, holed out in the deep off of Johan Botha having made just 12.

Pietersen and Flintoff were forced by the situation to begin their innings patiently before accelerating and shifting the pressure back onto the South African bowlers, 94 runs coming from the last ten overs.

Dale Steyn bowled Flintoff in the final over as Kallis returned figures of two for 25 with Makhaya Ntini the most impressive of the bowlers who bowled at the two danger men, conceding 38 from nine overs.

Pietersen waited 52 balls before hitting a boundary but only faced 82 balls in all - a fine display of how to construct a One Day innings.

South Africa, with Graeme Smith (21) and Herschelle Gibbs (37) in good form, made a good start and were well ahead of where England were until Harmison struck with his fourth ball to have Smith caught behind by Prior.

With Gibbs threatening to take control, Pietersen opted to hold back the third PowerPlay and with the occasional left-arm spin of Samit Patel had Gibbs bowled with a quicker ball.

Everything was going Pietersen's way and when he brought himself onto bowl, his sixth ball saw Mark Boucher (16) stumped. It was partly a misjudgement on the part of the batsman, but also sharp bit of work from Prior, who had a fine evening behind the stumps.

Kallis remained the main threat, and he compiled a workmanlike and calm half-century but perished soon after, run out for 52 and when Harmison was brought back into the attack, he needed four balls to strike once again, having JP Duminy well caught by Prior for 16.

Thereafter, South Africa were left with too much to do, despite the best efforts of Philander (23) and Johan Botha (23) as Flintoff capped a fine return to the side by bowling Andre Nel and Ntini to finish with two for 46.

Harmison returned two for 43 with the pick of the figures Pietersen's two for 22 as the captain picked up his first win as captain of the ODI side at the third attempt.

© Cricket World 2008