Kevin Pietersen: I have been given an England lifeline

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport at The Parks, Oxford
Kevin Pietersen: Best batting form of my career so far

Kevin Pietersen said he is in the best form of his career as he began his bid for an England recall with 170 for Surrey against Oxford MCCU.

Pietersen, sacked by England early in 2014, has rejoined Surrey after incoming England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves opened the door to an international comeback.

Pietersen's 149-ball innings at The Parks featured 24 fours and two sixes.

"I've been given a lifeline," Pietersen told BBC Sport.

"I'm batting as well as I've ever batted in my career."

It was his first century in any form of cricket since the Old Trafford Ashes Test in August 2013.

He added: "It bodes well for the future. It's only one day of cricket, I've still got a long way to go but it's not a bad start.

"If it's a journey back, it's a journey back, all I've got to do is score runs. That's what was asked of me to do today and I delivered."

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen made a slow start before accelerating with some sublime shots

Pietersen has been encouraged by talks with Graves and the dismissal last week of ECB managing director Paul Downton, the man who discarded Pietersen after accusing the batsman of being "disengaged" from the team following the 5-0 Ashes whitewash down under.

"I really like the way the new bosses are talking from stuff I read and hear," he added.

"English cricket needs to change. It looks like they are going to make some changes. I just want England winning. I've not been happy over the last 14 months because England keep losing.

"It's not nice for me as an England fan, as someone who has played passionately for England every time they have come out and played, so anything that can help England win, I'm all for."

England captain Alastair Cook, who is in Antigua preparing for the first Test against West Indies which starts on Monday, said his team could not afford to consider the Pietersen question on the eve of their three-match series.

"We are concentrating just on our squad and these next three games," Cook said.

"As we are finding out at the ECB now there are a lot of decisions going on behind the scenes.

"But to be honest as a captain and the other 15 players we can't worry about that and we certainly can't be paying any attention to that.

"It is great that he has scored runs for Surrey but we are here to concentrate on scoring big runs for England and to try and win this Test match."

Pietersen, who took 31 balls to score his first boundary, said he had been "learning to leave the ball again" at Surrey after specialising in Twenty20 cricket during his England exile.

And he is confident that his injury problems are behind him as he targets an international return in time for the Ashes from 8 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.

"I absolutely love batting, but I didn't enjoy batting for a while because I couldn't get into position. My knee wouldn't allow me to," he said.

"So to come out and play the way I played here, the way I played in Australia in the Big Bash, I'm batting as well as I've ever batted in my career. It's just a case of hopefully continuing that."

Pietersen's innings helped rescue Surrey from 113-5 to 420-7 declared. The hosts, made up of students from Oxford Brookes and Oxford University, then slipped to 28-4 at the close.

Oxford coach Graham Charlesworth said his players, several of whom are affiliated to county sides, had been taught a lesson by a "world-class" player.

"At 120-5 at lunch we felt we were on top but in the hour or so after lunch Kevin Pietersen took the game away from us and destroyed our attack," he told BBC Sport.

"You've seen him do it on TV many times. From lunchtime being on top, to tea time being quite a way off the pace, it was an amazing transformation in the game."

Kevin Pietersen and Gary Wilson
Pietersen celebrates his century with team-mate Gary Wilson
Kevin Pietersen for Surrey
Pietersen took 31 balls to hit his first boundary
Kevin Pietersen and Surrey team-mates
A large crowd turned out to see Pietersen and Surrey at The Parks, Oxford