Kevin Pietersen took satisfaction from contributing significant runs at a time of need for England on day three of the third Investec Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford.
Pietersen struck 113 – his 23rd format hundred – to help Alastair Cook’s side to 294 for seven, a score that leaves them needing 34 more to avoid the follow-on.
The 33-year-old’s 206-ball innings provided a timely boost to England, who will retain the little urn should they avoid defeat in Manchester.
“I like performing on a big stage when the team needs me,” said Pietersen at the close.
“I like to try and stand up to be counted and I think as an English player or an Australian player your career is defined by how you play in Ashes cricket.”
Pietersen was unaware he had today surpassed current batting coach Graham Gooch to become England’s leading international run-scorer.
Gooch compiled 13,190 runs for his country, but Pietersen’s tally now stands at 13,242.
Asked about the record, he replied: “I didn’t know, so it feels good. Everyone wants to have personal achievements. I’ve just got to wait for that to sink in – it’s something nice.”
Pietersen is now hoping England’s “engine room” can come to the fore on Sunday morning.
Matt Prior and Stuart Broad will resume with England 233 adrift, while Graeme Swann is still to bat together with James Anderson.
“I think if we apply ourselves tomorrow, anything can happen in this Test match still,” Pietersen told ecb.co.uk.
“Prior, Broad, Swann – we call it our engine room. If our engine room succeeds tomorrow, we can still get something positive out of this Test match.
“The key to it is to go out there and just put more and more pressure and time into their bowlers, get as close as we can to them and then you never know what can happen.
England were also grateful for the efforts of Ian Bell, who followed up his hundreds at Trent Bridge and Lord’s with an effortless 60.
“He’s in sensational form Belly. He’s such a good player and it’s just brilliant,” Pietersen added.
Mitchell Starc eventually ousted Pietersen and finished the day as Australia’s most successful bowler with 3-75.
Reflecting on his dismissal of the England centurion, Starc said: “He batted well for his hundred but to make sure he didn’t go on and get a big one was important.”
Only 17 wickets have gone down in three days at Old Trafford, but the left-armer believes batting will become much more difficult on a wearing pitch.
“Yeah, I think things are going to happen pretty quickly on the last two days,” he added.
“It’s showing signs of more and more turn and it’s only going to turn more heading into the end of the Test.”