Pietersen spares England's blushes
Kevin Pietersen produced a fighting century of the highest quality to spare England another embarrassment with the bat on the opening day.
This was his 12th century and, under the circumstances, one of his most valuable as England slumped to 86-5 shortly after lunch.
Andrew Strauss's shot, which started the slump and resulted in a catch at first slip, will give him nightmares tonight.
There has been a lot of talk about the form of Ian Bell and, particularly, Paul Collingwood who, at Old Trafford, looked utterly out of touch.
The result was a four-ball duck. Anyone can be dismissed for 0, but his uncertain grope again revealed a loss of confidence.
Hitting balls in the nets might help to correct a technical flaw, but I do not understand how it can restore one's mental composure. Only time at the crease, battling it out against a real opposition can do that.
Bell's bat came well across his pad and he was plumb lbw, also for 0. The fact is that Bell and Collingwood were put under pressure today, and failed: surely something in the middle order will have to give.
Tim Ambrose has also started to feel the heat after a series of low scores but, with Pietersen, batted with great common sense and responsibility. He is very strong off the back foot and profited every time New Zealand - and Chris Martin in particular - dropped short.
My only criticism would be that Ambrose appears to look for the short ball all the time, and there were a number of occasions when he might have inside edged the ball into his stumps.
With Pietersen taking control, and Martin struggling, Daniel Vettori looked short of alternatives.
To be fair, Pietersen gave the bowlers absolutely no room for error as, rather like Viv Richards used to do, he flicked the ball from as straight as off stump through the leg side.
His celebration at Napier for his last hundred was very obviously muted, but this was back to his gladiatorial and triumphant best. He fell to the second new ball for 115 to give New Zealand some late hope, but how England needed him today.