Pietersen raises the bar
Kevin Pietersen's England can celebrate their NatWest Series win over South Africa – but only on the condition that they buy into the captain's challenge to continue their self-improvement.
Pietersen's team were today denied their chance of a 5-0 whitewash and second place in the International Cricket Council one-day rankings by the rain in Cardiff.
They have nonetheless confounded the expectations of many by racking up a 4-0 success on the back of an outstanding man-of-the-series performance from all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, under the leadership of a man who took over the reins as Test and limited-overs captain less than a month ago.
The uncompromising message from Pietersen, though, is that they will never be allowed to stand still admiring their achievements.
"Playing against a quality side like South Africa in a one-day series you're obviously an underdog, but the way the guys have come out and played and practised has been absolutely exceptional," said a satisfied Pietersen.
"I can't fault anyone for anything. I can't ask for anything more as a captain."
Pietersen is vowing to enjoy the success – tougher days are inevitable – as well as striving to ensure they continue as long as possible.
"I know there are going to be hard and testing times, especially the trip to India, because it's not easy for any team to tour India," he added, casting his mind forward beyond England's next expedition - the Stanford Super Series in Antigua - to the trip to the sub-continent which follows.
"I also have a philosophy of really enjoying the good times because when the bad times come along you long for those good times.
"You make sure you enjoy the days like today and this series because it's going to be tough in India – and we'll just have to deal with it."
Pietersen is delighted with the reaction of his players since he took charge, but he made it clear they must carry on giving all they have to the collective cause.
"All the guys are just hungry for success," he said. "There are a lot of players who know they have settled for a comfort zone in certain areas, but I don't live with any comfort zones.
"I don't settle for mediocrity. I want guys to perform, to chuck their talent around and to be the best people they can possibly be.
“There's no point living if you don't want to be the best person you can possibly be."
England, who started the series seventh in the rankings and finish it third, just behind South Africa, had time between the downpours at the SWALEC Stadium to bowl just three overs, after putting their opponents in.
Even with such limited opportunity, though, they got rid of the dangerous Herschelle Gibbs cheaply – brilliantly caught behind by Matt Prior off Stuart Broad – in a total of six for one.
The suspicion was then that this match might be about to go the way of the four which preceded it.
Pietersen admitted to mild frustration that weather prevented any chance of the full whitewash – before conceding even he cannot have the weather to order.
"You can't control the rain," he said. "I wanted to get the guys out to make sure we had an opportunity to win 5-0.
"There was a huge incentive for us to win this fixture. It didn't happen. But the guys can enjoy tonight – and to win 4-0 is something we'd have taken two weeks ago."