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Pietersen back with a bang

Surrey’s Kevin Pietersen ticked all the right boxes for England by striking a sensational unbeaten 177 against Yorkshire at Headingley on his return to first-class cricket after a three-month absence with a knee injury.

Not only did Pietersen make the Australians sit up and take notice ahead of this summer's Investec Ashes, he also put a big dent in Yorkshire's hopes of increasing their lead at the top of the LV= County Championship Division One table.

After reaching a century from just 106 deliveries, Pietersen's onslaught continued and, when Surrey decided to declare 80 runs adrift of the home side's first-innings effort on 353 for seven, he had smashed 17 fours and seven sixes off 188 balls.

Surrey were struggling on 62 for three when he walked to the crease requiring a further 222 to avoid the follow-on, but Pietersen quickly assumed the leading role in guiding them to safety.

Rain and a damp ground prevented any play until midday and, 16 minutes later, Pietersen was on his way to the middle after nightwatchman Tim Linley had fallen in the first over from Ryan Sidebottom and Vikram Solanki had gone to a stinging catch at mid-on by Andrew Gale.

As usual, Pietersen was eager to get off the mark and his heart must have been in his mouth as he pushed his first delivery from Jack Brooks towards point and set off for a quick single.

Adil Rashid pounced on the ball and had his throw hit the stumps at the bowler's end, Pietersen may have been struggling.

Rory Burns fell soon after, lbw to Sidebottom for 29 as he tried to work the ball through leg.

Surrey were 90 for four at lunch with Pietersen on 15 and Zander de Bruyn four, and the former increased the tempo after the interval.

Pietersen cover-drove Liam Plunkett for four to move into the 20s and forced Sidebottom to the midwicket boundary before clearing the rope with a sweetly-driven straight six at Rashid's expense.

A back-foot punch for four off Brooks took Pietersen to 48 and he whipped the fast bowler square to reach his fifty off 71 balls with four fours and a six.

There was some compensation for the bowler when he ended the 97-run stand - de Bruyn mis-hitting high to midwicket, where substitute fielder James Wainman waited patiently for the ball to land in his hands.

Yorkshire's hopes of a further breakthrough were quickly dashed as Steven Davies joined Pietersen in a 118-run stand in 22 overs for the sixth wicket.

Pietersen was again severe on Rashid, who almost gained his revenge when the England man was on 78 and gave a fierce low return catch which the bowler could not quite hold on to.

The batsman responded with 17 in the leg-spinner’s next over, which included a straight six, and then on-drove Sidebottom for two to reach his century.

Yorkshire turned to Adam Lyth, who bowled the last over before tea and would have accounted for Pietersen for 120 off the final delivery if wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd had been able to grasp another low chance.

Soon after the interval, Pietersen saved the follow-on for Surrey by driving Rashid over long-on for a maximum, but Davies departed for 44 when he lofted Plunkett to Brooks at mid-off.

Pietersen's fourth six off Rashid raced him to his 150 from 176 balls, although there was a wicket for Lyth when Gary Wilson drove to Plunkett.

Pietersen was giving the long handle to virtually everything now and, after Wainman had made a valiant-but-futile attempt to hold a chance off Sidebottom by racing round from mid-on, the bowler was struck for two sixes and a four before Solanki ended the hosts' misery.

Yorkshire were left with 21 overs to bat before the close; Lyth and Alex Lees made untroubled progress until the 16th over when the latter offered no stroke to Gary Keedy and was lbw, the home side ending on 52 for one.