Kevin Pietersen marked his comeback from injury with a near run-a-ball 177 not out for Surrey at Headingley yesterday.
In his first innings since March, Pietersen confirmed form and fitness emphatically with a century from just 106 balls - and went on to hit 17 fours and seven sixes on day three of the rain-affected LV= County Championship match against Yorkshire.
Pietersen has played no cricket since having to leave England’s Test tour of New Zealand with bone bruising behind his right knee.
But as he seeks to demonstrate his readiness for the start of the Ashes on July 10, he was back with a bang in Leeds.
At the scene of both his wonderful 149 in a drawn Test against his native South Africa last summer, and then his controversial press conference when his disaffection with management became apparent, Pietersen this time dominated again in a Surrey total of 353 for seven declared in reply to their hosts’ 433 for nine declared.
England managing director Hugh Morris is confident Pietersen will be ready to face Australia in the first Test at Trent Bridge.
Morris told BBC Radio Five’s Sportsweek programme: “It’s very encouraging that Kevin is back playing again.
“I know he’s worked very hard in practice on preparation and on his fitness. He looks very fit.
“Clearly it’s important that he gets some cricket under his belt before the selectors actually sit down and pick the first Ashes squad.
“We’ve got a few weeks yet and he’s got this four-day game and he’s in our Twenty20 squad for New Zealand and we’ve got a game against Essex leading into the Ashes, so there is some cricket left, which is encouraging.”
Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald earned a place in the county’s record books when they became the first Derbyshire bowlers this century to both take five wickets in an innings in the rain affected LV= County Championship match against Somerset at Derby.