Kevin Pietersen has hailed an “incredible journey” ahead of playing in his 100th Test match for England this week.
The 33-year-old is set to reach the landmark during the opening Ashes Test of the winter as England face Australia in Brisbane from Thursday.
Pietersen made his five-day debut at Lord’s in 2005, where Australia again offered the competition. It ended in a heavy defeat as the tourists aimed for further dominance over England but, helped by the Hampshire batsman, Michael Vaughan's men responded to win a first Ashes series since 1986-87.
Eight and a half years later and the landscape has altered dramatically. It is England, looking for a fourth consecutive Ashes victory over the Aussies for the first time since the days of WG Grace, who are the team on top.
Pietersen has played a huge role in that and he is delighted to be celebrating a significant career milestone in such a fitting fashion.
“It will be a great occasion,” he told ecb.co.uk in an exclusive video interview. “There’ s no better time for playing your 100th Test match than in an Ashes opener here.”
His debut coincided with one of the all-time great Ashes contests. His Test bow at Lord’s and his maiden international century at The Oval book-ended the series. The latter was hugely significant as England secured a draw in the deciding rubber to complete a 2-1 victory.
Pietersen’s 158 all-but secured the urn, after Australia had sensed victory following a flurry of morning wickets. But as the nation watched on nervously, the man himself was completely calm in the situation.
He said: “I was under a lot of pressure. I know a lot of people said ‘well he’s flashy, he’s got fifties in this series, this is a huge knock’.
“Warney knocked me over in the first innings, trying to whip him through midwicket. And testament to my character I continued to whip him in the second innings.
“But when you’re in the bubble - in the zone - you’re actually nowhere else other than focussed on the job you’re doing. You’re not thinking about everything else that everyone else is thinking about, because it’s such a high-pressured environment.
“But it was a great, great day and it was just awesome to contribute to what was an incredible summer.”
That was one of many special moments that Pietersen has contributed while playing Test cricket for England.
“Colombo last year was a favourite because physically I didn’t think I’d be able to bat that long in those condition,” he said.
“South Africa last year was pretty much right up there because South Africa at Headingley was a very emotional week for me, to have got those runs and to have played the way that I’ve played was pretty special.
“Mumbai, in India, on that wicket, was a knock that I really enjoyed; scoring my first Test hundred against South Africa at Lord’s was a special time.
“There has been quite a bit of good stuff; it’s just been an incredible journey. I just feel so lucky to have been given the nod in 2005 and really humbled, but still so excited, about putting on an England jersey. It’s what dreams are made of. I’m very, very lucky to do what I’m doing.”
But this brief moment of recollection from a man who has scored 7,887 Test runs is by no means a sign of him coming to the end of his career. In fact, Pietersen has a list of achievements he is desperate to complete before he even contemplates calling it a day.
“I’d love to get 10,000 Test runs,” he said. “I’ve got home and away hundreds against every major nation apart from South Africa, so I need to see if I can tick the South Africa away box.
“There’s the 2015 World Cup. There’s still quite a few things I’d like to achieve playing for England and while I’m happy and everything is going as well as it is at the moment there’s no need to worry about anything.”
When the day does eventually come for Pietersen to hang up his boots, he hopes people will look back on a player who made vital contributions to a winning team.
He said: “I want to be remembered as someone who scored runs for England when the team needed them and in a situation where it looked as though we faced defeat and I played innings that assisted in us winning Test matches.
“Hopefully there’s quite a few more left in me.”