England inspired by its new leader Kevin Pietersen has pulled off an impressive 20-run lead in the 1st ODI against South Africa at Leeds. Pietersen came good with the bat to score an exhilarating unbeaten 90 from 82 balls with 7 fours and a six to lift his team to a competitive 275 for 4. The Proteas were in a good position to win the game but lost their way after a couple of wickets came in from an unlikely resource in KP’s off breaks!
England won the toss earlier and decided to bat first. Their side was injected with the inclusion of Steve Harmison, who was influenced by Pietersen to come out of his self imposed One Day retirement. Harmison’s opportunity to do so came because of an injury to Ryan Sidebottom. The hosts had an absolutely solid opening upon which the innings moulded into a good shape. Makeshift openers Ian Bell (35 from 69 balls) and Wicket Keeper Matt Prior (42 from 52 with 5 fours and a six) put on 77 on the board before they were separated in the 20th over. The runs didn’t come freely as it should in a One Day game but with the combination of Pietersen and Flintoff in the middle, England had a grand finish with 96 coming in the last 10 overs! Freddie Flintoff produced one of his best with the bat smacking 78 from 70 with 9 fours while putting on 158 runs in a little over 21 overs with his Skipper for the fourth wicket. Jacques Kallis was the most successful bowler for Graeme Smith as he took two out of the five wickets to fall.
The South Africans got themselves a well controlled start through the experienced Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs. But the comeback man Steve Harmison forced Smith (21 from 21 balls with 3 fours) in edging one behind in the 8th over to end what was already a 50-run opening stand. The dangerous Herschelle Gibbs got cleaned up as he tried to manufacture a cut shot off Samit Patel, who bowls left arm orthodox spin. SA revived after losing its openers through the pair of Kallis and AB de Villiers which laid the platform for the chase. The chasing side appeared in control at 142 for 2 in the 27th over when Pietersen struck gold by getting AB de Villiers (24 from 35 balls with 3 fours) caught in a flick shot. That wicket caused the downslide of the Proteas as two more big wickets followed in the form of Kallis (52 from 69 with 7 fours) and Boucher (16 from 15 with 2 fours), who was stumped off a Pietersen off break.
The rest of the South African team folded after losing its better batsmen and eventually the required run rate was a bit too much. SA got bowled out for 255 in 49.4 overs. Harmison made a successful comeback with his 10-1-43-2. Pietersen was the Man of the Match.