The brilliant maverick batsman Kevin Pietersen sent a timely reminder of his huge presence and ability by hammering an unbeaten 326 for Surrey against Leicestershire at the Oval on Monday.
Desperate to get back into the England team after his unceremonious sacking at the end of the disastrous Ashes tour last year, Pietersen was told that he would have to prove himself again on the county circuit. He could not have been more emphatic.
And there is more to come for he is still with his No 11 batsman, Matt Dunn, who is on five off 41 balls, protected by England’s most prolific batsman as he seeks to make an emphatic statement (and perhaps put the game out of Leiocestershire’s reach). Surrey, having run up 528-9, now lead by 236.
He started the day on 35, alongside Kumar Sangakkara (also on 35), and once he had shaken off the morning stiffness, moved rapidly on to his 50th first-class hundred off 153 balls (12×4, 3×6) on the stroke of lunch.
It was not flawless: he was dropped for the first time on 96, dancing down the wicket to Jigar Naik, he drove the ball hard back at the off-spinner, who could not cling on to a low chance. On 110 he edged straight to Mark Cosgrove, but Leicestershire’s Australian captain let the ball burst through his hands.
On 165, he skied high back over the bowler’s head: two players dithered and spilled it. On 223 another top edge was dropped at long leg.
As Surrey supporters chanted ‘Are you watching, Andrew Strauss?’, Pietersen went past his previous highest first-class score of 254 and reached 300 with his 12th six during an unbroken partnership of 100 with Dunn.
There was little real support along the way. Sangakkara went in the second over of the day for 36 and the only other batsman to hit 30 was Chris Tremlett in the tail.
Meanwhile, out of the limelight, Ashwell Prince was continuing his good run of form with a 57 for Lancashire as they chased Gloucestershire’s 388. Alviro Petersen‘s less effective run continued, too, for he was dismissed for seven, but 134 from Paul Horton helped the hosts to 276-6.
Hashim Amla will be back in action on Tuesday after Derbyshire bowled out Northants for 324, just 19 runs behind. Derbys were 76 without loss in their second innings, 95 ahead
Riki Wessels was again the outstanding batsman for Nottinghamshire, unbeaten on 42 as his team folded to 178 against Durham.
He had scored a great 117 in the first innings, with support from Vernon Philander (42), but there was no such backing second time around. It may yet be enough, with Durham being bowled out for 168, in which Philander took 3-27.