Kevin Pietersen's timing was at its best on and off the field in Barbados. He blitzed his way to a 33-ball 53 to set England firmly on course for the World Twenty20 semi-finals then announced he was jetting home for the birth of his first child but hoped to be back for the knockout stage. South Africa must be wishing Pietersen jr had decided to make an appearance a little earlier because they had no answer to his blistering stroke-play.
Pietersen learnt that he would be heading home before the match so didn't quite live up to his word of leaving the tournament at a moment's notice. However, maybe the news worked in England's favour because he certainly played with the freedom of a man who was feeling good about life and was noticeably relaxed at the press conference. On Wednesday, following the Pakistan match, he appeared tense. There will be a few air miles in the coming days, but if the team continues this dominant form he could have celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic.
It was almost the perfect Twenty20 display from start to finish. Nitpicking would say England should have crossed 180 after the platform laid by Pietersen and Craig Kieswetter as they added 94 in 10 overs, but this pitch was harder to score on than the previous day's surface. In the end 168 proved more than enough as South Africa's top order struggled to get the ball off the square.
"Colly [Paul Collingwood] and I have been talking about the perfect game and to beat South Africa so convincingly is amazing," Pietersen said. "It's so great to be part of a dressing room that plays such good cricket. It's frustrating for everyone when we don't perform like we should but, wow, the boys turned up today and the other day."
Pietersen's personal contribution was a different style from the unbeaten 73 which marshalled the run chase against Pakistan. On that occasion he didn't come in until the sixth over after an opening stand of 44 between Kieswetter and Michael Lumb, but this time he faced the sixth ball following Johan Botha's early strike.
Instead of already being in a phase of consolidation it was Pietersen's job to take advantage of the remaining fielding restrictions. He did so, along with Kieswetter, to the extent that after six overs England had 65 for 1, surpassing the 60 for 1 against West Indies as their best start of the tournament. Rarely has an England batting line-up played with such authority in the shortest format. In comparison South Africa's Powerplay brought 34 for 1.
Pietersen could have gone for 12 when he edged between Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis at slip as his Bangalore Royal Challenger team-mates stood and stared at each other. It wasn't quite Andre Fletcher and Wavell Hinds against Sri Lanka, but somebody should have at least dived.
"Playing against South Africa, Boucher and Kallis missing one through slip, it was good fun," Pietersen said with the merest hint of a grin. He got the better of another IPL team-mate, too, as he took the attack to Dale Steyn with South Africa's leading strike bowler going for 50 in his four overs - his worst figures in Twenty20 internationals.
Steyn's first over went for 13 as Pietersen took two boundaries - including a cover drive hit as hard as anything in this tournament - and when Steyn came back for the 11th over it went for 16 with Pietersen dispatching him onto the roof of the Greenidge and Haynes stand. There was an air of redemption for Pietersen after a difficult tour to South Africa in December and January.
"You have to go hard in the first six overs. I've been playing with Dale for the last four and a half weeks in India and have faced him in the nets so it was quite nice," he said. "He made me look a clown in South Africa during a few of the Tests so it was nice to get a few back him. It was my day today, it can be his on another."
At the end of the Powerplay Pietersen was on 29 and Kieswetter 24, but in a sign of how Pietersen took charge England's new wicketkeeper had only advanced to 33 (at a run-a-ball) by the time South Africa made the breakthrough. Despite Kieswetter's role being to lead the charge on this occasion, it was a moment to stand back and watch.
After victory against a disjointed Pakistan team this match was meant to be a proper test of England's growing Twenty20 credentials but they weren't even pushed close. It was child's play. Especially for Pietersen.