Pietersen polishes off Pakistan
Kevin Pietersen’s brilliant unbeaten half-century carried England to a comfortable six-wicket win over Pakistan in their opening ICC World Twenty20 Super Eight encounter in Barbados.
He made light of an ankle injury sustained while batting to play the most fluent innings of the match, hitting 73 off 52 balls as England overhauled a target of 148 with considerable ease.
Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter supplied the early impetus with 25 apiece at the top of the order, but Pietersen overcame the loss of Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan in quick succession late on to wrap up victory with three balls to spare,
England appeared favourites to triumph ever since they restricted Pakistan, the reigning champions, to 147 for nine on a true surface at the Kensington Oval despite a final-over flurry from Saeed Ajmal.
Michael Yardy was central to England’s success, taking 2-19 from four overs of probing slow left-arm, while there were two wickets apiece for Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad.
England’s largely efficient display in the field - Pietersen’s running effort at deep midwicket to remove Umar Akmal was the highlight - contrasted sharply with a Pakistan performance that is best described as shambolic.
They spilled five catches - Ajmal dropped three, including two sitters - and a miserable day was complete when Kamran Akmal ran past the stumps with the ball in his gloves with Pietersen well short of his ground in the penultimate over.
From the outset, after being asked to bat first, Pakistan set a tempo for a bigger total than they went on to achieve, undermining themselves with a rush of three wickets in nine balls in mid-innings.
Kamran hooked the first ball of the match, bowled by Sidebottom, just out of Tim Bresnan’s clutches at fine-leg for six.
Broad proved too sharp when Kamran tried a repeat and looped a catch to wicketkeeper Kieswetter, but Pakistan were well set on 71 for one in the 10th over before Salman Butt, who top-scored with 34, drove Graeme Swann low to Collingwood at cover.
Yardy had begun his spell moderately, allowing Mohammad Hafeez two early boundaries.
However, he got his man, caught by Broad at short third-man, and then the dangerous Shahid Afridi set off for an impossible single to cover first ball. He was comfortably beaten back by Luke Wright’s throw.
Misbah-ul-Haq, reverse-sweeping, was bowled by the immaculate Yardy as England stuck impressively to their plans and continued to maintain the pressure with tigerish fielding.
Umar, who escaped a missed stumping off Yardy, eventually fell to Pietersen’s remarkable catch after hitting 30 off 25 balls.
Pakistan therefore had only Abdur Razzaq left to launch the late firepower. He was unable to do so effectively, but Ajmal sliced Bresnan over the wicketkeeper for four and six during an eventful final over that cost 15 and gave Pakistan some hope.
England did not need any extra help, but Ajmal provided plenty of assistance during a nightmare few minutes at mid-off and mid-on, where he twice dropped Kieswetter - the first a straightforward chance on nought - and then put down Lumb for good measure.
Lumb added just two runs before Ajmal clawed back a little ground by turning one past the outside edge to have him easily stumped, and his opening partner perished when Umar held a steepler at long-on.
Razzaq spilled a sharp return chance offered by Pietersen, on 21, but England were well on course for victory by the time Fawad Alam palmed a Pietersen drive over long-off when he had made 34.
It soon became merely a matter of time and statistical detail before the match was won.
For the record, Pietersen’s share turned out to be eight fours and two sixes as he dominated a third-wicket stand of 60 with Collingwood, reaching his fifty with a towering straight drive off Afridi before wrapping up matters with four through cover.