Pietersen blitz hands England consolatory win
England 276 for 7 (Pietersen 90*, Bell 50, Strauss 50) beat West Indies 272 for 4 (Gayle 101, Bravo 112*) by 3 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out - West Indies
How they were out - England
Kevin Pietersen's brutal 10th one-day fifty handed England a consolation win in their final group match of a disappointing ICC Champions Trophy, after beating the West Indies by three wickets at Ahmedabad.
The match - a meaningless one for England who were knocked out last week - was effectively sealed in the 47th over when Pietersen fortuitously inside-edged Jerome Taylor past his leg-stump for four, and followed up with a crunching square drive off the front foot which reached the boundary boards before anyone could move. It was the first comprehensive shot of a carefully constructed innings, at a time when England most needed to edge their noses in front of the run-rate. His fifty was what England had greedily come to expect as routine from Pietersen a year ago, yet his dip in form this season - this was his first fifty in eight one-dayers - has hurt England more than they will concede. Every side has a linchpin, and Pietersen is theirs.
It was very much a situation tailor-made for him; England, at 127 for 3, not only needed an injection of pace and verve, but someone to partner Ian Bell until the end. Pietersen, not a man known for his subtlety, didn't take the game by the scruff of the neck at first, preferring to bide his time and play his way in - much as the game's situation demanded. He and Bell, who played quite magically for his 50, were knocking the ball around and stealing singles in the middle overs of their run-chase before Bell, wastefully, underestimated Brian Lara's powerful throw from mid-off. He was a foot short, and he could be even smaller when Duncan Fletcher gets hold of him.
Michael Yardy came and went in a hurry, somehow combining the look of a man comfortable at international level while also managing to appear hapless. Enter Chris Read, and what an opportunity for him to take England across the line. Even he conceded the death knell was knocking before this game, and if it was a distant chime 24 hours ago, the noise must be deafening now after another wretched innings. Dwayne Bravo, who earlier brought up his maiden one-day hundred, bamboozled him with slower-balls to make even Chris Cairns envious. It wasn't long before Read again misread one and he chipped it meekly to Chris Gayle at mid-off.
No matter, though, as England's No. 9, Sajid Mahmood, further enhanced a growing reputation with a sensible, calm and quickfire 14, acting as the perfect foil to the Pietersen bombast. After Pietersen's crunching square drive in the 47th over off Taylor, he took to Bravo - who earlier outfoxed him with his sublime slower-balls - smashing him for four through the covers before unleashing a vast six over the same extra-cover region. England closed the game out with an authority they can only dream of becoming a consistent reality.
Consistency is one thing Gayle has shown, who was deservedly given the Man-of-the-Match award following a hundred and three wickets. It was he and Bravo who really put England on the back foot with a pair of fine hundreds, although they were gifted treats aplenty from a wayward bowling display. The manner of England's victory cannot hide the 50 error-strewn overs they spent in the field; though it is a welcome silver-lining on yet another forgettable one-day series for them, their fielding was at its most lax and the bowling not much better. Mahmood, though at times he bowled well, lacked consistency and James Anderson lacked pace. Only Jamie Dalrymple offered any semblance of control and even he dropped his line to ease what little pressure there was.
None of this should devalue the innings from either Bravo or Gayle. Bravo in particular batted with great composure and class, rarely looking flustered and keeping the West Indies' run-rate up high. Impressively, and importantly for the future of the West Indies middle-order, he batted through to the end too.
Neither innings mattered in the end, though, as Pietersen finally rose to the occasion with a blistering innings. As destructive and match-winning as it was, Andrew Strauss's frenetic 50 (47 balls with eight fours) helped set the tone, not to mention a brief cameo from Andrew Flintoff. Indeed, perhaps the day's biggest plus-point for England was the bowling of their captain. Having said before the toss that he intended to "ping a few down", Flintoff looked potent but rusty as his five-over foray - split into two spells - leaked 27 runs including three fours and a rank full-toss when Gayle was anxiously entrenched on 99 not out. But at least his demeanour was sunny throughout, a start contrast to his old mate Steve Harmison, who looked on forlornly from the dressing-room after his shocking performances in the first two games.
Despite the ludicrously inappropriate fireworks to greet England's win, the manner with which Pietersen and Mahmood strode off suggested they won't be partying long into the night. And for West Indies, this loss might be just be what they needed to spur them on if they are to retain their title.
Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo