x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Pietersen secures England victory

England had the Kevin Pietersen-effect to thank for reviving their dormant World Twenty20 hopes at the Oval.

LONDON // England had the Kevin Pietersen-effect to thank for reviving their dormant World Twenty20 hopes at the Oval, following a compelling 48-run win over Pakistan. English cricket's biggest star was the notable absentee in the unfathomable opening night defeat to the the minnows from the Netherlands on Friday. He missed the game with a repeat of an Achilles tendon injury which the team director, Andy Flower, had admitted would need weeks of complete rest if it was to heal properly. With the Ashes looming large, England could have sacrificed their king-pin, and with their chance of winning the 20-over title. Yet this match against Pakistan was must-win and Pietersen was patched up and sent out to answer the call. His effect on the mood of the England team was striking. With the bat, he dragged them from under the rock of inhibition, where they spent the majority of the game against the Netherlands. As soon as he came to the wicket, Luke Wright, his first batting partner, upped a gear, and smoked five consecutive deliveries across the boundary. Owais Shah also benefitted from his company, after Wright went for 34 from 16 balls, as he struck a clever cameo of 33. Pietersen, typically, revelled in being centre of attention. His 38-ball 58 was the seminal innings of the game. It included three maximums, including one colossal effort into the top deck of the pavilion which measured 101 metres. Even in the field, despite usually being placed out of harm's way, he was conspicuous. When Stuart Broad followed up the wicket of Kamran Akmal by having the in-form Salman Butt caught at point, he turned through 180 degrees and made a beeline instead for Pietersen at mid-on. Broad was a picture of despondency two night's earlier when his four errors in the final over gave the Netherlands a remarkable victory. As he excitedly embraced Pietersen here, he was beaming. After Broad's incisions with the new ball, England's slow-bowling duo of Graeme Swann and Adil Rashid bolstered the advantage in the middle overs. Despite the resistance of their proud captain, Younus Khan, the deficit was always too large for the Pakistanis. Pakistan still seem to care little about the value of out-cricket. Their catching was poor, yet, like Scotland before them earlier in the day, as low as their standards dropped, they still had one sublime moment to remember the day by. Shoaib Malik, arguably their most capable fieldsman, pulled off a fine diving effort at backward point to dismiss Ravi Bopara in the second over. As fate had it, that was only the second best catch of the day, following an incredible tumbling effort by Kyle Coetzer for Scotland in their defeat to South Africa, which was the precursor to England v Pakistan. It gave Mohammed Amir, a 17-year-old playing his first match on the international stage, a first wicket. It was part of an impressive first over for the young left-arm fast-bowler, but his joy did not last long as Luke Wright, Pietersen, and later Owais Shah sent his bowling to all parts of the ground. Pakistan, who came into the game with the best Twenty20 record in the world - although light on practice since landing in England - must now beat the Netherlands in their second pool match if they are to advance. * AP