Kevin Pietersen hits century for Surrey against Oxford students
Kevin Pietersen launched his bid for an England recall with a sparkling 170 for Surrey against Oxford MCCU.
Pietersen, 34, unleashed some trademark shots to score his first hundred in any form of cricket since the Old Trafford Ashes Test in August 2013.
In front of a hearty crowd, he hit 24 fours and two sixes in 149 balls before being caught at midwicket.
Pietersen rejoined Surrey in March with the aim of regaining his England place in time for the Ashes rematch in July.
|Kevin Pietersen's England record|
|Pietersen has scored 8,181 runs in 104 Tests at an average of 47.28. He has a highest score of 227 and has made 23 centuries.|
|He is also England's leading run-scorer across all formats, having scored 4,440 runs in 136 one-day internationals and 1,176 runs in 37 Twenty20s.|
|He has won four Ashes series and was player of the tournament in England's World Twenty20 triumph in 2010.|
The three-day friendly against the student side is his first appearance in long-form cricket since the Sydney Ashes Test in January 2014.
Discarded by England after the 5-0 series defeat in Australia, Pietersen has played almost exclusively Twenty20 cricket since then.
But the South African-born batsman decided to focus on winning a 105th Test cap rather than his lucrative Indian Premier League contract after incoming England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves gave him hope of a recall.
And Pietersen's performance was a clear reminder to the England selectors of his enduring quality ahead of the first Test with the West Indies, which begins in Antigua on Monday.
Tale of the innings
Pressed into action at number four just 45 minutes into a chilly spring morning, Pietersen took 31 balls to hit his first boundary but followed up with six more on his way to a half-century just after lunch.
Oxford captain Sam Weller, a fast bowler on Kent's books, was cut behind square for four before Pietersen evoked echoes of his prime by getting on the front foot to pull the 6ft 5in Abidine Sakande to the midwicket rope.
As the bowling became more ragged and the crowd swelled, Pietersen cashed in. He laced a full toss through cover to reach three figures, then unfurled a ramp shot over his shoulder for another boundary.
Back-to-back sixes followed off seamer Matt Hughes - one of them denting a spectator's car - as Pietersen brought up his 150, his third fifty coming off just 27 balls.
The fun was over 20 minutes before tea when he holed out to midwicket off 20-year-old Sakande before departing to a standing ovation.
After Surrey had been reduced to 113-5 by the combined Oxford University and Oxford Brookes side, Pietersen helped them take control. The division two side declared on 420-7 and had the students in trouble on 28-4 as Chris Tremlett, another former England player, took 3-3 at the close.
Folding chairs, stray dogs and rickety benches
Had Graves not opened the door to an England recall, Pietersen would have been lining up for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL on Monday in front of 37,000 at Bangalore's M Chinnaswamy stadium.
Instead, England's most recognisable player had to make do with a healthy throng of students, families and sporting enthusiasts at the picturesque University Parks.
With folding chairs and picnic rugs they lined the boundaries and were treated to a vintage show of shot-making.
A one point a man was dislodged from his seat by a Pietersen four, and later in the day a stray black dog held up play with a solo dart across the outfield.
Meanwhile, a 20-strong press pack shuffled onto rickety white benches alongside the pavilion to mark the start of a journey that could well see Pietersen back into the England fold.
How did we get here?
For anyone not familiar with recent episodes of English cricket's soap opera, here's how we got to where we are.
Pietersen, England's highest international run scorer, was ditched by the ECB after the Ashes whitewash a year ago and accused of being "disengaged" from the team.
England got worse, improved slightly, then sunk to an all-time low at the World Cup in February and March.
Pietersen, encouraged by Graves' comments, sent his PR machine into overdrive, pulled out of his beloved Indian Premier League and rejoined Surrey.
Last Wednesday, the ECB removed one of the biggest hurdles to a Pietersen comeback by dismissing managing director Paul Downton, the man who was central to Pietersen's sacking in the first place.
What happens next?
Pietersen will have another chance to impress England's selectors in Surrey's second innings at The Parks.
He will then play in their first three County Championship matches of the season, but will fly out to India should the Sunrisers reach the knockout stages of the IPL, which start on 19 May and finish with the final on 24 May.
England, meanwhile, host New Zealand in two Tests and five one-day internationals from May 21.
And should Alastair Cook's men falter, Pietersen will hope to be in the frame to make a fairytale return in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff from 8 July.