Pietersen comes alive at five
Kevin Pietersen displayed a timely return to form to give England a pre-Ashes boost at the end of their ICC Champions Trophy campaign.
Pietersen blasted an unbeaten 90 to guide Andrew Flintoff’s men to a three-wicket victory over holders West Indies under the Sardar Patel Stadium lights in Ahmedabad.
The 26-year-old reverted back to number five in the batting order and excelled once again to hit his first half-century in nine attempts at one-day international level.
His authoritative striking helped scythe down West Indies’ 272 for four with nine balls to spare and was reminiscent of his three hundreds in South Africa two winters ago; his personal tally in 12 innings batting at number five is now 698 runs at an average of 116.
It was also an opportune time for the man whose hundred at the Brit Oval sealed the Ashes in 2005 to regain form - the first Test of the defence is less then four weeks away.
“Getting runs anywhere will stand you in good stead after you haven’t got many,” said coach Duncan Fletcher.
“To get those runs like that, back to what he was before, is bound to give him a lot of confidence.
“It was good to see him play like I believe he should. He showed a little bit of patience early on and built his innings.
“We showed him some videos of what happened in South Africa when he took his time and batting at number five is useful for him.
“He was able to get momentum towards the end of his innings and he did that again here.”
Captain Andrew Flintoff got through his pre-planned five overs with no ill effects - his first bowl in international cricket since June 4 - to add to the feelgood factor at the end of an otherwise disappointing trip to the subcontinent.
England have erred on the side of caution since Flintoff returned from ankle surgery, keen to ensure he is ready to operate in an all-rounder capacity in Brisbane next month.
His two spells also gave England extra control through the power plays and towards the death.
“I asked him ‘how did you go?’ and he said he felt very comfortable,” said Fletcher. “I am sure he could have bowled more overs so that is very good news.
“It is huge for us because we can balance the side better.
“As soon as he bowls 10 we can add another batter or even go in the same, where we can use two spinners with four seamers.
“It gives us lots of options and that is important when you go into a major tournament like the World Cup.”
As expected, Steve Harmison was dropped for the final Group A match on Saturday, and his replacement Jon Lewis defied the heat to send down an impressive spell of 10-1-35-1 at the start of the innings.
It was quite a contrast to Harmison’s displays out here which saw him concede 20 runs in his opening over against India and return figures of 4.5-0-45-1 in defeat to Australia.
However, Fletcher is confident that any crisis of confidence will not spread to the Test scene.
“Whenever you leave a player out it is the worst thing to do, it is very hard, especially for a coach or selector,” Fletcher said.
“It is one of the worst you can make when you are involved in a sport.
“We don’t take it lightly - we just felt he seemed to have lost his confidence and we probably needed Jon Lewis to tighten things up a bit.
“He knows he bowls a lot better in the Test matches.
"We have got warm-up games in Australia; he goes into the tour a lot fitter for being here and it is now important he gets some overs in because he is a very dangerous bowler in Test cricket.”
Fletcher, meanwhile, insists he has no plans to step down in the near future following claims by former England batsman Geoff Boycott that he is past his "shelf life".
“I have always said the time to finish is when I feel I don’t help the players and I can’t help the England team I am coaching," said Fletcher.
“We will have to wait and see - I don’t know how long it will be. I am confident at the moment I am helping the side and can add value to it.”