England win at last as Pietersen gatecrashes Gayle's party
by AFP

Ground:Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad
Scorecard:England v West Indies
Player:J Lewis, SI Mahmood, S Chanderpaul, RR Sarwan, CH Gayle, DJ Bravo, AJ Strauss, IR Bell, A Flintoff, KP Pietersen, MN Samuels
Event:ICC Champions Trophy 2006/07

DateLine: 28th October 2006


Kevin Pietersen ruined Chris Gayle's party with an explosive 90 not out as England stunned the West Indies by three wickets in the Champions Trophy here on Saturday.


The big-hitting batsman's 10th half-century under pressure helped England surpass the West Indies' challenging total of 272-4 with nine balls to spare in a day-night match neither team feared to lose.


The West Indies had already qualified for the semi-finals with two wins in as many matches in the four-team group, while England were out of contention after losing their first two games against India and Australia.


South Africa and New Zealand are the other sides in the last four.


The last semi-finalists will be decided after the India-Australia game at Mohali on Sunday.


"We wanted someone to bat through and win. Kevin steadied the ship and batted well. If he plays like that, the team gets stronger and stronger," said England skipper Andrew Flintoff.


"I am very very pleased because we did not perform as we could in the previous two games. This victory against a form side, like the West Indies, is important in our development plans."


England owed their consolation win ahead of next month's Ashes series to Pietersen, who smashed one six and nine fours off 86 balls in a stunning display of aggressive batting.


Pietersen upstaged man-of-the-match Gayle, who hammered a solid 101 for his 14th century to help his team set a stiff target and then grabbed three big wickets with his off-spin.


Gayle also added 174 for the second wicket with Dwayne Bravo, who remained unbeaten with 112 for his maiden century. Gayle hit 10 fours and one six and Bravo one six and 14 fours.


"Credit must go to their batters for doing very well. Pietersen stayed till the end and showed that he has the commitment and resolve to do it," said West Indies captain Brian Lara.


"We could have defended the total but we allowed England too many runs in the first 15 overs. Perhaps it was the right time to get the hiccup."


Pietersen posed the main threat to the West Indies' total after left-handed opener Andrew Strauss had given England a blazing start with a 47-ball 50.


England raced to 82 in less than 12 overs, thanks to Strauss and Ian Bell (50) before Pietersen finished the job in style under lights.


England's early flourish had ended after Gayle was pressed into the attack as the off-spinner bowled Strauss with his third delivery before dismissing Flintoff (25) and Paul Collingwood in the space of three balls.


Flintoff, who earlier returned as a bowler in one-day internationals for the first time in six months, had been looking dangerous before he holed out to Jerome Taylor at the long-on boundary while attempting a big shot.


All-rounder Collingwood fell for a first-ball duck, caught by Bravo in the slips before Pietersen steered to his team to victory.


The afternoon belonged to Gayle and Bravo as they never looked under pressure against England's pace-spin combination on a good batting wicket.


The 23-year-old Bravo initially outscored Gayle, reaching his half-century off 60 balls with 10 fours before his senior partner dominated the England attack with handsome shots on both sides of the wicket.


Gayle, 27, curbed his strokes in the first part of his knock as he completed his half-century off 80 balls. He exploded with a flurry of boundaries immediately after reaching his fifty.


He took 47 more balls to complete his second hundred of the tournament after having made an unbeaten 104 against Bangladesh at Jaipur in the qualifying round.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)