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May 26, 2006
But despite Muralitharan's sterling haul, and the fine efforts of the England attack, the day was still about one man. Pietersen was even more dominant than at Lord's as he flayed the attack to all corners of the ground. His audacious strokes through midwicket, against balls outside offstump, had to be seen to be believed and some of his thumping drives down the ground were as far removed from the coaching manual as is possible. But Pietersen is a rare talent and Edgbaston just soaked up the strokeplay.
After working hard against a probing opening spell from Chaminda Vaas, he formed two consecutive half-century stands, with Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff, where the other batsmen were hardly noticed. Collingwood is happy to play second fiddle, but it isn't often that Flintoff is so overshadowed at the crease. Then again, Pietersen has been so far ahead of other batsmen in this match that the next highest score is 30.
The medium-pace of Nuwan Kulasekara and Farveez Maharoof was no contest, dispatched merrily through the covers and even when the edge was taken it flew through the much reduced slip cordon. Pietersen's fourth century arrived in a flash, with another stunning flick wide of mid-on, and he exploded in a first-clenched celebration, throwing his bat down, while the patriotic crowd rose to cheer him.
What followed the landmark was quite astonishing. With the field spread, Pietersen could have just worked the singles but that isn't how he plays. Instead he continued to pepper the ropes, launching Kulaksekara into the stands then taking three consecutive fours off Muralitharan including a stunning inside-out drive over extra cover. However, the most jaw-dropping moment was still to come. With a quick switch of the hands he got down on one knee and reverse slog-swept Muralitharan over cover for six. Just as thoughts were turning towards more carnage, though, he played one sweep too many and Muralitharan struck back and an absorbing battle had ended.
Sri Lanka, led by the tireless Muralitharan, had again shown their never-say-die attitude and would have drawn confidence from their Lord's heroics. But any thoughts of a similar fightback here were immediately stunted by Hoggard, who again found his line straight away. In the first innings he removed Upul Tharanga with the fifth ball of his first over, here he did it with the fourth as the batsman nibbled at one that went across him.
After 14 overs of seam it was time for spin and Panesar joined Hoggard with an opening-over strike, holding one back slightly as Sangakkara came down the pitch and spooned the ball to Paul Collingwood at midwicket. The hands went everywhere and England celebrated a vital breakthrough, but better was to come when a perfect piece of left-arm spin bowling did in Thilan Samaraweera. Panesar had twice induced edges, one clipped Jones' pad and fell short of slip while the other went wide. He then tossed up another, Samaraweera hopped down the pitch and was completely stranded as the ball turned and bounced. It was a wicket Panesar will want to frame.
In between the Monty show, Hoggard was never far from the action and claimed Mahela Jayawardene - the hero of Lord's - with one that kept low. There was more sign of uneven bounce and increasing turn during the closing overs as Michael Vandort and Tillakaratne Dilshan fought through until the end. Muralitharan will believe he can trouble England with any sort of a lead, but if Sri Lanka turn this match around it will put Lord's firmly in the shade.
Upul Tharanga c Jones b Hoggard 0 (2 for 1)
Pushed at one that went across him
Kumar Sangakkara c Collingwood b Panesar 18 (38 for 2)
Spooned to midwicket as he came down the pitch
Mahela Jayawardene lbw b Hoggard 5 (43 for 3)
Ball kept low, taking leg
Thilan Samaraweera st Jones b Panesar 8 (56 for 4)
Drawn down the pitch, beaten by wonderful spin and bounce
Matthew Hoggard b Vaas 3 (169 for 4)
Played around a full ball
Paul Collingwood c Tharanga b Muralitharan 19 (238 for 5)
Came down pitch, defended, inside edge to short-leg
Kevin Pietersen lbw b Muralitharan 142 (290 for 6)
Missed a conventional sweep
Andrew Flintoff b Malinga 9 (290 for 7)
Ball held its line, took off stump
Liam Plunkett c Vandort b Muralitharan 0 (293 for 8)
Limp pull to mid on
Geraint Jones c Samaraweera b Muralitharan 4 (294 for 9)
Top-edge sweep to short fine-leg
Monty Panesar lbw b Malinga 0 (295 all out)
Came back in, trapped on the crease, plumb
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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