Fun at the World Twenty20
Zimbabwe in the World Twenty20 may not rank among the toughest tests Pietersen has ever faced, but the Zimbabweans entered this game on the back of one of international cricket's greatest shocks. Only the day before they had beaten a complacent Australia by five wickets, leaving them within another surprise of topping Group B and so condemning the Aussies and the Poms to scrap it out for the final qualification spot. Thanks to Pietersen's switch-hitting bravado, it was a scenario which was avoided.
Not for the first time in his England career Pietersen arrived at the crease with work to do. Darren Maddy and Luke Wright had fallen in successive balls to Elton Chigumbura to leave England 20 for two, prompting four balls of reconnaissance from Pietersen. In this form of the game, much more circumspection can prove fatal, so Pietersen duly launched into Chigumubura, taking 16 runs off an over, before hitting Tawanda Mupariwa high over long-on for six.
Tatenda Taibu - usually Zimbabwe's keeper but given a couple of overs because Brendan Taylor had the gloves - was dispatched in similar fashion, but the Pietersen party piece was yet to be unveiled. In the 13th over of the innings, he went on the attack, switch-hitting successive deliveries from the slow left-armer Keith Dabengwa, operating over the wicket, for six, four and four. The last of the trio, played despite a man being set back precisely for the shot, was especially audacious.
Dabengawa disappeared for 22 in the over, and although Pietersen fell soon after for 79 off 37 balls, including seven fours and four sixes, the damage was done. Thanks to a fourth-wicket stand of 100 in nine overs with Paul Collingwood, Pietersen had lifted England to 188 for nine in their 20 overs - a total not even an opening stand of 74 in 8.4 overs between Taylor and Vusimuzi Sibanda could challenge.
"It's a silly game, play silly shots," was Pietersen's shoulder-shrugging explanation afterwards. The Zimbabweans may have seen it rather differently.
Lawrence Booth is a cricket correspondent at the Guardian. He writes the acclaimed weekly cricket email The Spin for guardian.co.uk