Vol. 5 Num 694 Sat. May 13, 2006  

Pietersen at his best

Kevin Pietersen equalled his best Test score as England built an imposing first innings total of 551 for six declared, their highest against Sri Lanka, on the second day of the first Test at Lord's here Friday.

Pietersen made 158 and put on 173 with Paul Collingwood (57).

England captain Andrew Flintoff, deputising for the injured Michael Vaughan, was 33 not out and Geraint Jones unbeaten on 11, the pair adding 49 in just 50 balls before Flintoff called a halt shortly before the scheduled tea interval.

Pietersen's hundred was his third Test century and his first at Lord's.

The South African-born batsman's stand with Collingwood was an England fifth-wicket record against Sri Lanka, beating the 92 shared by Mark Butcher and Alec Stewart at Old Trafford in 2002.

Sri Lanka's pacemen generally posed little threat on a good batting pitch and even Muttiah Murali-tharan was one of three bowlers who posted an unwanted century, the star off-spinner taking three for 158 in 48 overs -- yet another marathon stint.

England began the second session on 432 for four and runs continued to come briskly with both Pietersen, who used his reach to drive effectively through the offside, and Collingwood taking boundaries off Murali.

But Sri Lanka's cornerstone did induce an error from Pietersen, the 25-year-old Hampshire batsman on 138 gloving an intended sweep.

However, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jaywardene, running back from slip, dropped the diving chance with England on 466.

Collingwood, in only his second Test in England, then completed his first fifty in 103 balls with seven fours.

Soon afterwards Pietersen reached 150 for the second time in his Test career, following his Ashes-clinching 158 at The Oval in September, with a single off left-arm quick Chaminda Vaas.

He then equalled that score by clipping a full toss from Vaas to the long-on boundary as England went to 500. But next ball, playing across the line defensively, he was lbw to Vaas.

In all Pietersen faced 205 balls with two sixes and 19 four in exactly five hours at the crease having been 'caught' off a Farveez Maharoof no-ball on Thursday.

Five balls later 502 for five became 502 for six when Collingwood was bowled by a Muralitharan delivery that kept low.

Flintoff was fortunate on 11 when he thumped a drive back at Vaas only for the bowler to put down the difficult one-handed chance above his head.

As England pressed for quick runs, Flintoff lofted his former Lancashire teammate Muralitharan for six before repeating the dose and then declaring.

England, who won the toss in the first of a three-match series, started Friday on 318 for three after opener Marcus Trescothick (106) had made a century on his return to Test cricket Thursday and Alastair Cook, in his first Test in England, 89.

But nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard soon fell for seven, bowled by a Vaas yorker.

England batsman Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century against Sri Lanka on the second day of the first Test at Lord's on Friday. PHOTO: AFP