Arguably one of the most naturally talented batsmen of his generation, Pietersen is capable of turning any game on its head.
At his flamboyant and dismissive best, he is a joy to behold, combining immense power and glorious timing with innovative strokes that can leave the world’s best bowlers scratching their heads.
Pietersen first came to England’s attention in December 1999, when, having emerged in his native South Africa as an off-spinner who could bat, he struck a 57-ball 61 from number nine before picking up four top-order wickets, including Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, in a tour match for KwaZulu-Natal.
Within 12 months, and holding a British passport courtesy of his English mother, he had signed a three-year deal at Nottinghamshire.
It soon became clear that batting was Pietersen’s strongest suit and, after serving his four-year qualification period - and leaving Trent Bridge to join Hampshire - he was called up to make his England debut on the 2004 tour of Zimbabwe.
The subsequent one-day series in South Africa saw Pietersen establish himself as a world star with three stunning centuries and he went on to thump 91 from 65 balls in the first NatWest Series ODI against Australia in 2005.
A pair of fifties on Test debut in the opening Ashes rubber followed, before a spectacular match-saving 158 in the fifth Test at the Oval ensured England reclaimed the famous little urn and elevated Pietersen to hero status.
Already widely considered as the ace in England’s pack, he was named ODI player of the year and Emerging player of the year by the International Cricket Council later that year.
Although England sank to a 5-0 Ashes defeat Down Under in 2006/07, Pietersen, possessing seemingly unshakeable self-belief, continued to impress. He also struck 104 against Australia in the 2007 World Cup before compiling a then career-best 226 in the second Test against West Indies at Headingley.
Pietersen’s form dipped thereafter, but he bounced back in July 2008 with a wonderful 152 at Lord’s in his first Test against South Africa.
Appointed captain for the final match of the series following Vaughan’s decision to step down, Pietersen made another hundred.
However, after just five months in the role, he left his post following the “irretrievable breakdown” of his relationship with coach Peter Moores, who was relieved of his duties.
By his own admission, Pietersen struggled to regain his confidence and he was also hampered by an Achilles injury that curtailed his participation in the 2009 Ashes.
Despite this, he was player of the tournament as England claimed the World Twenty20 title in the Caribbean in 2010.
When cricket’s oldest rivals resumed battle later that year, Pietersen returned to centre stage with a dominant 227 in the second Test in Adelaide, an innings that helped England to a historic 3-1 series triumph.
Seemingly rejuvenated, Pietersen flourished in the 2011 npower series against India, scoring 202 not out and 175 as Andrew Strauss’ side replaced their opponents as the number-one ranked Test team.
Despite an indifferent Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, Pietersen returned to form in the limited-overs matches. He struck two hundreds in England’s 4-0 ODI whitewash of Misbah-ul-Haq’s side and a half-century during the 2-1 T20 success.
His glorious 151 from 165 balls in the second Test against Sri Lanka helped England draw the series and saw him become his country’s leading century-maker across all formats.
Pietersen continued that sparkling form at home to West Indies and, having surprisingly retired from limited-overs internationals, hit a game-saving 149 in the second Investec Test with South Africa. However, he was then dropped over an issue of team discipline but, having reversed his limited-overs retirement and been reintegrated into the England set-up, was later added to the Test party to tour India.