Friday, December 11, 2009

Strauss and Pietersen cash in

Andrew Strauss bagged his first hundred and Kevin Pietersen his first half-century of their South African winter on Friday.

England's hosts, a South African Invitational XI, needed 82 overs to take their first authentic wicket in a stumps total of 317 for five declared on day one of two at Buffalo Park.

Strauss (100), Pietersen (71), Alastair Cook (52) and Jonathan Trott (50) all fed off a toothless attack on a sedate pitch after England had been invited to bat first in sunny conditions.

The most pressing question of the day, meanwhile, went unanswered as England batted on and therefore gave James Anderson another 24 hours to rest his injured knee before the fast bowler seeks to prove his fitness in time for Centurion.

Strauss shared an unbroken stand of 101 with Cook, and then 68 with a largely strokeless Trott - before the latter helped Pietersen add 105 more.

The changing of the guard came about not with any success for the bowlers but the decision that each batsman in turn could afford to retire his innings with appropriate runs and time at the crease under his belt.

The latter element appeared to almost entirely absorb Trott - who contributed only 24 runs from 83 balls in the second session, despite a late surge of three boundaries before tea.

He had an lbw scare on nought, Roy Adams beating his defence, and then took no chances even against a back-up attack which featured home captain Wendell Bossenger - usually a wicketkeeper - bowling laboured leg-spin.

Strauss was breaking no speed limits but outscored Trott by 55 runs to eight, on his way to 161-ball century.

The captain immediately made way for Pietersen - who promptly drove the second and third ball he faced for fours, off his namesake Charl, and then pushed a single from the fifth to overtake the dormant Trott.

He beat his partner to 50 too, England calling time on Trott the moment he finally reached his 135-ball half-century in mid-evening.

Pietersen was starting to threaten three figures when he actually lost rather than donated his wicket, holing out in the deep as he tried to add to his 12 fours from 100 balls with a big hit at off-spinner Yasseen Vallie.

Ian Bell then became the only batsman to miss a half-century, gone for single figures when he chopped a delivery from Keagan Eccles on to his stumps. Cook had earlier posted his second successive 50, while Strauss made no mistake with an obvious opportunity for a long innings - having managed only a single in the first fixture against these opponents, which finished in a draw on the same pitch yesterday.

Eccles strayed first on to the pads and then dropped short, as Strauss got himself moving with two leg-side fours.

Teenage pace bowler Aya Myoli was pacy enough to keep both Strauss and Cook on their mettle.

It was first change David Wiese who perhaps came closest to a morning wicket, with a yorker which appeared to strike Strauss on the boot when he had made 20 but must have swung too much or hit bat too - because the lbw appeal was turned down.

There were no alarms otherwise, Cook reaching his 50 first with a pull for his eighth four as Eccles continued to provide easy scoring opportunities in his second spell.

An unremarkable day meandered ever more slowly, raising doubt as to the true benefit derived by tourists who will have to adapt to a jarring change of pace next week.

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