When it comes to in-your-face players with talent and guile to back up said attitude, you’ve got Kevin Pietersen. The South African native who played for England will no doubt be remembered as one of the most prolific cricket players to have ever batted for the Three Lions.
On the occasion of his birthday, we look back on what we feel are five of his most memorable knocks in the Gentleman’s Game.
158 vs Australia (2005)
The 2005 Ashes marked England’s first win in the Ashes since 1987 but it also marked the arrival of Pietersen, whose yellow mohawk proved he had the attitude and as he would go on to show on the pitch, the talent as well.
Scoring twin-fifties in the first match (57 and 64 not out), Pietersen arrived at the fifth match having racked up 301 runs in the four matches till then, while England was up 2-1 on Australia.
England chose to bat first, scoring 373, and Australia responded with 367. Coming in at 67/3 in the second innings, Pietersen saved the day with a 158-run knock -- his first Ashes ton -- making legendary bowlers like Brett Lee and Shane Warne look silly and helping England win the series after the match ended in a tie.
100 vs South Africa (2005)
Having proved himself in the Ashes earlier in the year, Pietersen arrived in South Africa as one of England's players to watch. His side won the first game and tied in the second of the seven-match One-Day International (ODI) series against the Proteas but then, it started going downhill for the visitors as they lost two in a row to fall back 1-2.
South Africa opted to bat first in the fifth game after winning the toss and racked up an imposing total of 311. With such a daunting prospect staring down at them, England were not looking too healthy at 117/3 until Pietersen arrived to bat. He struck up a 62-run partnership with Michael Vaughan and following the skipper’s dismissal, went on to score a 69-ball 100 laced with seven boundaries and four sixes.
Despite Pietersen’s gutsy showing, England fell short by seven runs but this his performance on the day will always be remembered.
47 vs Australia (2010)
Having made it to the finals at the World Cup thrice and the Champions Trophy once, England badly craved an ICC tournament triumph as they went into the World T20 in 2010.
England were on the right path, as they made it to the final against Australia, who batted first. A commendable showing from the English bowlers restricted the Aussies to 147.
When it was their turn to bat, Pietersen's arrival at the wicket after the early dismissal of opener MJ Lumb was just what the doctor ordered. Together with Craig Kieswetter, Pieterson struck up a 111-run partnership, contributing 47 runs off 31 balls which included four boundaries and a six and helped England win their first-ICC title.
202 vs India (2011)
Coming off a three-year dearth of hundreds on home ground, Pieterson silenced his critics, fittingly enough, with his slowest century and the only one at Lord’s during the first match of the four-Test series against India in 2011.
Save for a catch by Rahul Dravid that was deemed not to have been taken cleanly, it was a largely chanceless and responsible innings from Pieterson. It was also one of his three career Test double-hundreds and helped vault England atop the ICC Test rankings.
130 vs Pakistan (2012)
Despite a humiliating defeat in the three-Test series against Pakistan earlier in the year, England returned the favour handily in the ODI series against the Falcons.
Having already clinched the series by winning the opening three matches, England were put to field first in the final game after Pakistan won the toss. Failing to restrict the Men in Green from reaching a formidable total of 237, England’s hope of a clean sweep of the series looked in doubt after being reduced to 68/4 by the 16th over itself.
That’s when Pietersen came to the fore and stepped up, going berserk with a 153-ball 130, peppered with 12 fours and two sixes and assured England of a 4-0 triumph in the series.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Gareth Copley