Pietersen ton adds gloss to whitewash
Kevin Pietersen struck another masterful century as England completed a 4-0 one-day international whitewash over Pakistan courtesy of a four-wicket victory in Dubai.
Pietersen had not reached three figures in the ODI arena for over three years prior to Saturday’s encounter - something that seems all the more remarkable given his tour de force today.
With England stuttering at 68 for four in pursuit of 238, their new opener seized control in brilliant fashion to follow Alastair Cook in registering back-to-back ODI hundreds.
At that stage, it seemed his opening partner was struggling, but there were no signs of that today as Pietersen, well supported by Craig Kieswetter’s 43, hit a limited-overs-best 130.
Jade Dernbach had earlier starred with the ball, taking 4-45 - his finest effort in ODIs, while debutant Danny Briggs claimed 2-39 as England dismissed Pakistan - for whom Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq hit half-centuries - for 237.
The bowling duo played as England made four changes, with Jos Buttler also coming in for a debut while Tim Bresnan made his long-awaited return from an elbow injury; James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ravi Bopara and Graeme Swann were the men to make way.
Pakistan, meanwhile, made three alterations as Junaid Khan, Abdur Rehman and Shoaib Malik replaced Imran Farhat, Aizaz Cheema and Umar Gul.
The designated hosts, having opted to bat first, made a poor start as Dernbach located Mohammad Hafeez’s edge in the second over, Kieswetter doing the rest.
Shafiq responded with a flowing straight drive for four and, having been subdued early on, Azhar twice found the boundary off Bresnan.
With England opting to give Briggs and Pietersen overs after the mandatory powerplay, Azhar and Shafiq continued to mix good running with the odd boundary.
The latter reached a deserved half-century in fine style, clipping Dernbach through fine-leg for four, and the century stand arrived when he glanced Bresnan to the third-man boundary.
But the Yorkshire seamer found some reverse swing as Shafiq dragged on for 65 and, after Azhar reached his fifty, Umar Akmal fell when, advancing down the pitch, he struck Briggs to Dernbach at long-off.
That seemed to spur England on and it was not long before they claimed the prized wicket of Azhar, for 58, Dernbach finding a leading edge and Eoin Morgan taking a fine diving catch at point.
That meant Pakistan had to consolidate rather than attack in the batting powerplay, although they were still well placed to post a competitive total, especially after Misbah-ul-Haq's enormous six off Samit Patel.
But just as the hosts appeared to be building up a head of steam, Briggs trapped Malik, on the sweep, leg before for 23.
Steven Finn - helped by a fine catch from Bresnan - accounted for Shahid Afridi, and Adnan Akmal was run out by Morgan after a breakdown in communication with Misbah.
Rehman tried to play one shot too many against Finn and, after being dropped by Pietersen, Misbah - on 46 - was dismissed by Dernbach, who finished an excellent final over by castling Saeed Ajmal.
Cook got England off to a flying start by cutting the first ball to the point boundary, only to fall off the next delivery.
Junaid found some swing to rap the left-hander on the pad and after the umpire initially gave it not out, the decision was overturned on review.
Pietersen took a while to get into gear, but signalled his intent and form by launching Rehman over mid-off before dissecting the smallest of gaps for another off-side four off Ajmal.
After Pietersen ended the mandatory powerplay with another flowing cover drive, Jonathan Trott fell for 15 when, caught in two minds over whether to play forward or back, he top-edged Rehman to Hafeez at square-leg.
Morgan was next to go, trapped in front by Ajmal attempting a sweep on 15, and Buttler followed him two balls later as he inside edged the same bowler on to pad, allowing Azhar to take an easy catch at short-leg.
Kieswetter, though, was looking impressive as he and Pietersen rotated strike and found the boundary frequently, with the fifty partnership coming off just 47 deliveries.
The latter was then given out leg before attempting a sweep off Rehman, but Zameer Haider’s decision was rightly overturned on review, with the ball hitting him outside the line of off stump.
Kieswetter profited from some poor Junaid fielding to herald the hundred partnership with a slog-swept four, which he followed up with a glorious cover drive two balls later off Ajmal.
But, with a half-century approaching, he was run out after being sent back by Pietersen, who, with the required run-rate rising, responded by pulling Junaid over square-leg for six to move to 99 soon after.
His ton soon followed, off 136 balls, before Patel was surprisingly given out leg before off Junaid by umpire Haider, only to be reprieved on review with the ball hitting him outside the line of off stump.
Pakistan’s frustration was compounded as Pietersen pulled for successive fours, the first of which came as Rehman opted to attempt a diving catch rather than save the boundary.
That signalled a change in intent from the centurion, who moved past his previous ODI best score of 116 with a glorious down the ground six.
Pietersen fell to Ajmal, who finished with 3-62, in the penultimate over, but Bresnan's boundary sealed the win with four balls to spare.