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March 22, 2008
Innings of the day
Pietersen has been in the doldrums of late, his mindset seemingly muddled by his side's ongoing failings. He hadn't passed fifty in any of his previous ten innings of the winter, but today he ended his drought in the most emphatic manner imaginable. This time, his hand was forced by the chaos going on around him. England were 4 for 3 in the blink of an eye, so rather than mope around in a repeat of his Hamilton dirge, Pietersen decided to cut loose on what - contrary to appearances - was a superb batting track. At the time of his dismissal, his superb 129 from 208 balls had comprised 62% of the team total, which placed it on a par with Graham Gooch's famous 154 not out at Headingley in 1991. Its ultimate place in the annals will be decided by the manner in which England respond over the next four days.
Shot of the day
Pietersen's six count has been on the wane in recent years. He's managed a meagre eight in 18 Tests since the start of the Ashes in 2006-07, which is fewer than he'd managed in any single season before that. But when he does decide to take the aerial route, they really do stay hit. Daniel Vettori discovered that in the 80th over of the innings, when Pietersen dropped to one knee and belted him onto the roof of the Western stand. With the new ball looming large, it looked as though there might be two ball changes within the space of an over, but up jumped a useful chap from the groundstaff to retrieve the errant missile from its resting place.
Debut of the day Mk 2
There can't have been many occasions in recent Test history when, as an attacking option, the wicketkeeper has stood up to a genuine medium-pacer inside the first 20 overs. But such was the luxury granted to Grant Elliott, the other debutant in New Zealand's ranks. As Jacob Oram has spent the last two Tests demonstrating, defence is the best form of attack against this England line-up, and so Elliott proved with a probing maiden spell of 5-1-10-1. He offered the batsmen nothing as he adopted Oram's wicket-to-wicket approach, then claimed the scalp of Ian Bell with arguably the first hittable ball of his spell. Bell completely muffed the shot, however, as his eyes lit up like a starving man, and two newbies had made vital incisions of the opening morning of the match.
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