Kevin Pietersen: at last a century and a victory
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After a series of one-sided matches, the World Cup at last got a contest that went into the last over, and was finally decided with one ball, and one wicket, to spare, making it one of the most closely contested World Cup games ever: it was only the fourth instance of a match being decided by one wicket, and also the fourth time a team had won a World Cup game with one ball remaining. (Click here
for the smallest victory margins in World Cups.)
The key to such a close, high-scoring contest - the match produced an aggregate of 601 runs for 19 wickets - was the track, which was an excellent one for batting, and remained so throughout the 50 overs. So true was the pitch that two woefully out-of-form opening batsmen managed to belt half-centuries at faster than a run a ball - Chris Gayle, averaging 18.62 in the tournament before this match, crashed 79 from 58 balls, while Michael Vaughan, whose 130 runs before this knock had come at a meager 16.25, scored as many as Gayle did, using ten extra deliveries.
Both batsmen reveled in conditions that allowed them to hit through the line of the ball. Gayle took full toll of the full-length balls, crashing eight such deliveries for 28 runs, but was more circumspect against the good-length ones, scoring just 24 off 34. Vaughan, on the other hand, was confident enough to take on the good-length deliveries too, smacking 50 off 38 such balls. In fact, a better option for the bowlers against him was to pitch it too full or too short - he only scored at a run a ball off such deliveries.
The batsman who made the England victory possible, though, was Kevin Pietersen. None of his four previous hundreds had won the game for England - three were in defeats, while one was tied - but it turned out to be fifth time lucky for him. During the course of the innings, Pietersen also completed 2000 ODI runs - he achieved the feat in just 45 innings, making him the joint-fastest to get to the landmark, along with Pakistan's Zaheer Abbas. Pietersen finished the tournament with an aggregate of 444 runs, becoming only the second England batsman to total more than 400 in a World Cup -Graham Gooch aggregated 471 in 1987 - while he is also the first to score two centuries for England in World Cups.
This was only the third time a team lost in the World Cup after posting 300 or more. Zimbabwe had lost to Sri Lanka after scoring 312 for 4 at New Plymouth in 1992, while South Africa were beaten by a Stephen Fleming special in 2003 after scoring 306 for 6 in a game which was decided by the Duckworth-Lewis method. West Indies have now lost five times after scoring 300 or more batting first, which is the most by any team. Australia follow with four such defeats.
The 131-run partnership between Gayle and Devon Smith was West Indies' sixth century partnership for the opening wicket in World Cups, and the first in this tournament. It was also their fourth century stand for the first wicket against England, breaking a 13-year drought: the last time West Indies added more than hundred for the first wicket against them was when Desmond Haynes and Phil Simmons put together 145 in St Vincent in March 1994. Since then, West Indies had played 26 ODIs against England before this game.
Gayle's 29-ball 50 is the seventh half-century in less than 30 deliveries in this tournament, and the 18th in all World Cup games.
This was only the second time West Indies posted a total of 300 or more in a World Cup match, against Sri Lanka at Karachi in 1987 they scored 360 for 4.
Liam Plunkett conceded 71 runs from seven overs, making it the second-most expensive figures for an England bowler who's bowled at least seven overs in an ODI - Sajid Mahmood had gone for 80 in seven overs against Sri Lanka at The Oval last year.
The captains of both teams were run out, only the second such instance in a World Cup game. Sanath Jayasuriya and Shaun Pollock were both run-out victims when Sri Lanka played South Africa in 2003.