Pietersen adds gloss to fine day

Kevin Pietersen tuned up for the start of the Ashes with a quickfire half-century as England piled into the Australia Invitational XI’s bowlers at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Only Michael Carberry missed out against a second-string attack which became increasingly vulnerable on a very good batting surface as England raced to 302 for five in reply to 304 all out.

After Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, with 81 and 83 respectively, laid the foundations for Pietersen, who hit 57, the tourists should have enough time here to put themselves in position for a confidence-boosting win to send them on their way to Brisbane for the first Test next week.

Trott and Cook had to work a little for their second-wicket stand of 153 but, by the time Pietersen was hitting seven fours and a six on his way past 50 in 68 balls, England were showing their superiority.

His treatment of leg-spinner James Muirhead, bowling in tandem with part-time slow left-armer Aaron Finch, was particularly aggressive.

After England’s hosts had faltered from an overnight 271 for five, Stuart Broad finishing with a deserved 4-37 and Steven Finn a five-wicket haul, the tourists lost Carberry early.

The left-hander was undone by Josh Lalor, who had him edging behind on the back foot before lunch.

Trott and Cook were rarely troubled, however.

England’s number three ticked over impressively throughout, with nine fours in a half-century completed at the exact same tempo as Pietersen after him.

Trott outscored his captain, taking on the short ball to offer an indication of his readiness to do so this winter once the Ashes is under way.

Trott hit 11 of the 12 runs in one over off Lalor but, when the left-armer returned, he twice had the batsman playing and missing.

There was nonetheless no obvious prospect of a wicket, unless a batsman played a significant part in his own downfall.

So it was that first Trott pushed out at Lalor and edged behind, then Cook did likewise at Nic Bills for a third successive caught behind.

Both batsmen were frustrated to get out, but their compliance allowed Pietersen and Ian Bell to bag a fifty stand at better than a run a ball before falling to Muirhead.

Bell was caught at slip, edging an expansive drive, and then Pietersen was spectacularly held in the deep by substitute fielder Dan Hughes.

Jonny Bairstow, deputising for the injured Matt Prior in the knowledge he may yet be required again after all in the same capacity at the Gabba, might have gone the same way but for a drop at deep midwicket by Finch off Muirhead when he had made only four.

The Invitationals had earlier lost the key wickets of overnight batsmen Ryan Carters and Peter Nevill to Broad and Finn respectively.

Broad, England’s outstanding bowler, got Carters for 94 almost before the opening credits rolled on the second morning with a perfectly-pitched outswinger first ball.

Bairstow completed the dismissal with a fine, diving catch to immediately end a stand of 178 which had previously delayed England for 58 overs.

Lalor then made a duck, neatly caught at second slip by Graeme Swann off Finn, and Nevill did not last much longer against the same bowler, although it was not clear he had got bat on ball when given out caught behind for 83 to a very good delivery which appeared to hit him on the thigh.

Three wickets had fallen for the addition of eight runs.

When Chris Tremain pushed aerially to point, Boyd Rankin had a hard-earned success too; then Finn, who continued to improve after a moderate start on day one, bounced out last man Bills.

Click here for imags of day two.

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