Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Super' Pair Combine to Give England Hope

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Super' Pair Combine to Give England Hope

Article excerpt



BUDDING superstar Kevin Pietersen and determined supersub Vikram Solanki combined to give England a glimmer of hope at The Oval today.

Pietersen grabbed his last chance to influence the selectors before they pick their squad for next week's first Ashes Test by caning Australia for 74 runs from 84 balls, despite having to take utmost care for much of his innings.

And Solanki, named 12th man this morning but thrust into the spotlight after England had crumbled to 93 for six, supplied 53 not out to a total of 228 for seven.

That did not look a daunting target for Australia, who remained favourites to win this NatWest Challenge decider - especially as the home side had sacrificed fast bowler Simon Jones in order to use Solanki as the substitute.

But, regardless of the result, today's performance may have clinched Pietersen's Ashes place at Lord's on Thursday week.

With Graham Thorpe - his obvious rival for the No5 Test spot - among the spectators, Pietersen found his best form again at a perfect time.

He had done nothing much since making that match-winning 91 against Australia three weeks ago.

Here, though, Pietersen plundered sixes off spinner Michael Clarke and fast bowler Jason Gillespie and struck seven fours before finally being bowled by a Gillespie slower ball.

The Pietersen-Solanki partnership added 93 precious runs and then Ashley Giles gave England supporters more reason to cheer with an undefeated 25.

The first long and loud round of applause today, however, wasn't for a player but in appreciation of umpire David Shepherd, who will retire from the world stage tonight after standing in his 172nd one-day international.

Shepherd was soon into action this morning, twice pulling up Brett Lee for bowling wides during the opening over of the match.

But Lee did not take long to adjust his radar and, having single-handedly accounted for England's middle order at Lord's on Sunday with figures of five for 41, he sent back Trescothick in his second over here.

The lefthander was cramped for room by a well directed bouncer from the fast bowler and spooned a catch to t h i rd man which Michael Kasprowicz held, nonchalantly enough, moving left.

That was Lee's 200th victim in his 112th oneday game - and noone bar Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq has been quicker to that milestone. There is still only one leader of Australia's pace attack, though, and Glenn McGrath again demonstrated his magnificent control of the new ball during another outstanding spell.

Runs weren't easy to come by against Lee and the cheer that followed Strauss's thick-edge four to third man was almost one of relief.

But McGrath didn't offer England a single opportunity to score during four maidens that tested patience as much as technique. …

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