Pulsating Pietersen strikes gold
Kevin Pietersen struck a remarkable unbeaten century as England hit back emphatically on day three of the second Investec Test against South Africa at Headingley Carnegie.
The hosts were teetering at 173 for four in reply to 419 after Vernon Philander trapped Alastair Cook in front and Jacques Kallis dismissed Ian Bell either side of Dale Steyn removing Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott, who made 37 and 35 respectively.
However, Pietersen then destroyed the South Africa bowling attack, blazing 22 fours and one maximum in his wonderful 149 off 212 deliveries.
The 32-year-old shared an impressive 147-run fifth-wicket stand with debutant James Taylor, who made a watchful 34, as England closed 68 runs behind on 351 for five.
The Proteas' bowlers started with three successive maidens as Strauss and Cook were happy to leave the ball outside the off stump en route to a patient half-century opening stand.
Morne Morkel and Philander's wayward lines forced visiting skipper Graeme Smith into adopting new tactics, which reaped instant rewards as Philander dismissed Cook lbw for 24, with a review failing to save the left-hander.
A brief shower heralded an early lunch but, soon the restart, Steyn had Strauss caught behind by AB de Villiers for 37.
Trott and Pietersen steadied the ship with a third-wicket stand of 57 until the former's luck ran out when he sliced Steyn to Smith at slip.
Smith was rewarded for throwing the ball to Kallis just before the tea interval when Bell, who started by hitting Imran Tahir for a maximum, played a loose shot into the captain's hands in the cordon.
England dominated the evening session as Pietersen took the attack firmly to the South Africa pacemen, advancing to a well-deserved half-century off 90 balls.
The destructive right-hander responded to Hashim Amla spilling a sharp chance at short-leg by flaying six fours in 11 deliveries, including two in successive overs from under-fire pair Morkel and Steyn.
Pietersen showed no signs of holding back as he closed in on three figures, crashing Philander to the cover boundary before completing his 142-ball hundred with a single into the leg side.
At the other end, Taylor showed excellent temperament in his first Test innings, playing each ball on merit as Pietersen went on a further onslaught, crunching three fours and a six in another devastating 11-ball spell.
South Africa looked down in the dumps, but were given a spark when Taylor dragged Morkel on to his own stumps to end a promising knock.
South Africa's day was summed up late on as Smith left the field with an injury sustained while preventing Matt Prior, who finished unbeaten on 20 from 30 balls, from adding to his boundary count.
7:30pm - CLOSE OF PLAY! Eng 351/5; Pietersen 149, Prior 20 - What a fantastic day for England. They looked in trouble four down for 173, but Pietersen pulverised the Proteas pacemen. It was fantastic to watch and let's not forget debutant Taylor's contribution to a vital stand. The hosts have cut the first-innings deficit to 68 runs and are in a strong position to secure a lead.
7:20pm - Tahir is handing England runs now as he bowls two successive no-balls. He has failed to trouble England today, which reinforces the hosts' decision to omit spinner Graeme Swann. Now Prior takes successive fours off Steyn's final over.
7:10pm - Smith looks to have injured himself sliding to save a Prior cut. He is now receiving treatment on the field and looks in some trouble. Could South Africa be without both openers in their second innings?
7pm - Prior cashes in on another poor Morkel bouncer to register his first boundary. Pietersen has got the switch hit out, but his first attempt wasn't a success!
6:48pm - WICKET! Taylor b Morkel 34; Eng 320/5 - Taylor's encouraging 104-ball innings comes to an end as he plays on to Morkel to give South Africa a boost. England have resisted using a nightwatchman, with Matt Prior striding to the crease.
6:45pm - Taylor is starting to enjoy himself and caresses the ball to the midwicket boundary before rocking on to the back foot to cut Tahir for two more. He has 34 to his name.
6:23pm - South Africa's bowlers are running out of ideas as Pietersen tears them apart. Taylor's played a fantastic supporting role, picking up runs when they are on offer. A single from the latter sees England reach 300 in the 91st over.
6:08pm - Taylor cuts Morkel for four and Pietersen takes Steyn apart, rocking back to thump through midwicket before hitting a six over long-off. He has 22 runs off his last 11 balls.
6pm - CENTURY PARTNERSHIP!- This is some innings from Pietersen, who cracks Steyn through the covers and then almost takes the bowler's head off with a fierce strike down the ground. Pietersen has dominated the stand with 68.
5:54pm - Pietersen keeps trying to play his shots despite Steyn operating with the new ball. Taylor is playing a gutsy supporting role and is currently unbeaten on 20 off 62 balls.
5:40pm - CENTURY! Pietersen (142b 17x4 0x6) - Yes KP! Pietersen drives Philander through the covers to move one short of a ton. He gets there the next delivery with a single into the leg side. His 21st Test hundred. The right-hander's second fifty came off just 52 deliveries.
5:30pm - Pietersen and Taylor are milking the singles as they take England past 250. The former is five short of a 21st Test century. JP Duminy is into the attack with his occasional spin. South Africa have taken the new cherry.
5:20pm - Pietersen isn't letting Tahir settle, hitting the leg-spinner towards cow corner where Graeme Smith and Francois du Plessis avoid a collision to combine and stop another four. Drinks.
5:10pm – A mixed bag from Kallis, who is pulled and driven for four by Pietersen either side of the seamer conceding four wides with a ludicrous bouncer that flies over AB de Villiers’ head. A flick into the leg side helps Pietersen go to 7,000 Test runs.
5:06pm – Imran Tahir continues to go for runs as Taylor flicks a full-toss to the midwicket boundary to take his fifth-wicket stand with Pietersen past 50.
4:53pm - James Taylor is still feeling his way into his innings, guiding Vernon Philander through the slips for a couple. A total contrast to the way Pietersen is playing. He walks across his stumps and punches Jacques Kallis to the rope to move to 74.
4:42pm - Pietersen then drives Steyn through the covers and cuts him to the point boundary. Brilliant batting.
4:37pm - DROPPED CATCH - Pietersen, on 52, tucks Morne Morkel to short-leg, but Hashim Amla can't hold on to a difficult chance. The right-hander then goes on the attack, despatching two Morkel short deliveries to the boundary in emphatic fashion. England pass 200 in the process.
4:31pm - FIFTY! Pietersen (90b 9x4 0x6) - Pietersen cracks a Dale Steyn short ball to bring up his fine half-century.
4:26pm - Dale Steyn has Kevin Pietersen in all sorts of trouble after the restart, rapping him on the pads then beating the outside edge, but the batsman responds with an immaculate drive down the ground.
4pm- TEA! Eng 183/4; Pietersen 43, Taylor 4 - Taylor drives Tahir down the ground to collect his first boundary in Test cricket. South Africa have momentum heading into the interval after the dismissal of Bell, but Pietersen is looking to play his shots at every opportunity and is vital to England's hopes afetr tea.
3:52pm - WICKET! Bell c Smith b Kallis; Eng 173/4 - Another loose shot by an England batsman gifts South Africa a wicket. This time Bell falls in similar fashion to Trott, cutting the second ball of Kallis' second spell to Smith at slip. Debutant James Taylor strides to the crease.
3:47pm - Pietersen continues to play his shots, but is cut in half by a Steyn delivery that cuts back sharply. The right-hander then flicks the paceman off his legs for four to move on to 42.
3:32pm - Maybe a spinner is not needed on this wicket as Tahir's three-over spell fails to trouble the batsmen and costs 23 runs. Morkel, on at the Rugby Stand End, is struggling with his line and produces an array of wild deliveries that Pietersen and Bell are happy to let go. It is vital these two see it through to tea.
3:16pm - England pass 150 after new batsman Ian Bell takes the attack to Tahir, hitting him down the ground for a maximum. A confident Pietersen smacks Steyn through the covers before flicking him into the leg side for a couple.
3:09pm – WICKET! Trott c Smith b Steyn 35; Eng142/3 – Trott's luck runs out as he slices a cut straight to Graeme Smith at first slip to give Steyn, now on at the Kirkstall Lane End, his second scalp.
3:05pm - Trott edges Philander through the slips to bring up the fifty partnership. The right-hander then thumps a Tahir full toss just wide of Francois du Plessis at midwicket.
2:59pm - Pietersen rocks on to the back foot to crunch Tahir's first delivery to the boundary. The leg-spinner's first over goes for six.
2:46pm - Pietersen is currently acting as a Headingley steward after a spectator behind the bowler's arm disturbs Trott. England will soon have to pick up their run-rate if they are to bat themselves into a strong position to push for victory. Time for a drink.
2:39pm - The ball has been changed and is now starting to talk. A full Kallis delivery lifts, bounces off Trott's glove and loops over the slips. The right-hander then edges just short of the cordon off Kallis' next. Spinner Imran Tahir is loosening up.
2:25pm - Pietersen is very watchful against Jacques Kallis and Vernon Philander, who is getting a touch of swing. Kallis gets his line wrong and the ball flicks off Trott's pad down to the fine-leg boundary.
2:11pm - Pietersen drops one into the leg side to bring up England's 100 before crashing Steyn through the covers. In the next over, Trott picks up a couple before driving Morkel to the midwicket boundary.
2pm - A fine Trott glance off Morkel, who is bowling seriously quick, just evades the despairing dive from de Villiers to end his 16-ball spell without a run. Pietersen then takes Steyn for successive fours; a crunching pull followed by an attempted hook that hits the glove and loops over de Villiers.
1:47pm - WICKET! Strauss c de Villiers b Steyn 37; Eng 85/2 - Dale Steyn makes the first breakthrough of the afternoon; he locates the edge of Strauss' bat and AB de Villiers gratefully accepts a simple catch. Here comes Kevin Pietersen!
1:43pm - Andrew Strauss drives Morne Morkel through the covers for the first boundary of the afternoon, but the paceman responds soon after with an excellent delivery that just beats Jonathan Trott's outside edge.
1:28pm - The players are back out in the middle and the sun is shining. We have lost seven overs, but there are still 79 to be bowled today.
1:24: - The news on Alviro Petersen is that he has a grade one hamstring problem and, although he won't field, he will be available to bat in the second innings. The opener should be fit for the third Test at Lord's.
1:06pm - Play will resume at 1:30pm, with tea set to be taken at 4pm and the close of play three hours later.
12:30pm - Thankfully the rain has stopped, but the covers are still on and the outfield looks sodden. The clean-up operation starts now!
12:11pm - The rain is getting heavier, with a long delay expected. The players will take an early lunch at 12:30pm.
11:54am - RAIN STOPS PLAY! Eng 80/1; Strauss 33, Trott 6 - The umbrellas go up and the covers come on! The weather forecasters are correct again as one of the scheduled showers hits Leeds. The elements are expected to cause havoc throughout the day, which will hamper England's progress.
11:52am - Strauss crunches Philander through the covers before Trott is fortunate, edging the same bowler just short of Smith at first slip.
11:45am - Trott takes four balls to get off the mark, beating Steyn to the boundary with a beautiful drive through midwicket. At the other end, Morkel is troubling Strauss.
11:35am – Francois du Plessis is on the field deputising for the injured Alviro Petersen. Strauss takes a Morkel short delivery on the chest and the ball flies through the slips for four.
11:30am - WICKET! Cook lbw Philander 24; Eng 65/1 - After a quick tactics chat with skipper Graeme Smith, Philander gets his line right and traps Cook in front. A review fails to save the left-hander. Jonathan Trott walks out to the crease.
11:22am - A misfield from Dale Steyn brings Alastair Cook three. Strauss fends off a fierce ball from Morkel, who then beats the diving AB de Villiers with an erratic delivery that races for four byes.
11:15am - England's openers are happy to leave the ball outside the off stump, playing out three maidens as Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander fail to make them play. Andrew Strauss brings up the first runs of the morning, England's fifty and the half-century opening stand with a leg glance to the boundary.
10:58am – Here comes the players. This is a huge session for England as they simply cannot afford to lose wickets in clusters like they did in the opening Test defeat at the Kia Oval.
10:50am – Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook looked comfortable against a Proteas attack that struggled to put the new ball in the right areas last night. The openers will be looking to replicate their opponents, who dug in on the previous two mornings.
10:45am – The tourists have concerns over Alviro Petersen after the opening batsman went for a scan last night on a hamstring strain he sustained during his innings of 182. The extent of the injury is set to be revealed this morning but, after walking on to the outfield gingerly, he is unlikely to field.
10:40am – Stuart Broad is optimistic the hosts can bat for a prolonged period to ensure they are in a strong position to level the three-match series. However, the South Africa bowlers will be encouraged by the cloud cover sweeping in.
10:30am - Good morning from Headingley Carnegie, where England will resume on 48 without loss after dismissing South Africa for 419 yesterday.