Kevin Pietersen hits out on his way to 131
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Kevin Pietersen gave England A something to smile about at last, as he smacked 131 out of a meagre total of 228 in the second one-day match against India A. But Dinesh Mongia followed up yesterday's century with a resourceful 88, to set India on their way to a narrow two-wicket victory, and an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Despite being boosted by the return of Simon Jones, who took 1 for 45 in his ten overs, England's stand-in captain James Tredwell chose not to repeat the mistake of bowling first when he won the toss for the second match running. Pietersen opened to blast some quick runs, and although his partner Matt Prior fell early for 4 (11 for 1), the gamble looked to be paying off, as he and Michael Lumb (24) added 70 for the second wicket.
But the innings rapidly fell to pieces, as Bilal Shafayat (10), Graham Napier (4) and Tredwell (1) all came to a sticky end with their running between the wickets. In Shafayat's case, it was the end of his participation in the series. After being given out to a particularly close call, he allegedly swore so loudly that the whole ground could hear his opinion of the decision. England's team management certainly had their ears tuned in - they suspended him for one game at the close of play.
Other than Shafayat and Pietersen, Graeme Wagg, with 29, was the only other man to reach double figures in a hopelessly lop-sided performance, as India A's paceman Munaf Patel took 3 for 42.
In reply, India were cruising to victory at 189 for 2, before a stunning collapse revived England's slim hopes. Mongia and Gautam Gambhir had added 84 for the first wicket, and Sridharan Sriram made an even 50 before he was run out, when Lancashire's fast bowler Sajid Mahmood burst onto the scene with four wickets for six runs in 18 balls.
Mahmood finished with 4 for 51 - and Pietersen had Mongia stumped with a century in sight - as six wickets tumbled for 37 runs. But India's captain Sairaj Bahutule maintained his composure to seal the victory.
For England, it was a disappointing outcome, but for Jones, he was just happy to be back on a cricket pitch. "It was the flattest wicket I have ever bowled on," he said after the close, "so I'm happy to finish with 1 for 45." He and Mahmood achieved some reverse-swing towards the end of the innings to keep England's hopes alive, but in the end, their batting frailties caught up with them.
But Pietersen was delighted with his personal performance. "It was the first time I'd been asked to open on the trip," he said, "and I'm happy that the
coach [Rod Marsh] had confidence in me. The ball was coming on to
the bat nicely, and you could just hit through the line and get value for your shots."