LEEDS, ENGLAND // Kevin Pietersen said his century against South Africa yesterday was "up there" with his best for England.
Pietersen ended day three of the second Test unbeaten on 149 after, by his own admission, trying to hit world No 1 bowler Dale Steyn out of the attack in an at times gladiatorial confrontation with the tourists' fearsome pace attack.
The innings led England to 351 for five in response to South Africa's 419 and allowed them to dream of a series-levelling victory rather than aiming simply to save the match.
The tone of the innings shifted with a blistering attack on first Morne Morkel and then Steyn, after the former came around the wicket to bombard him with short-pitched bowling.
"They're an incredible attack. They keep coming to the last ball but luckily I've ended up getting a hundred," Pietersen told Sky Sports.
"That's something I'm very happy about and we're in a good position if we bat well tomorrow.
"With that attack, especially when Morkel came around the wicket, it's him or me. I don't see the point in dodging the ball and being hit, I'd rather do the hitting.
"I tried to go through the gears today. Once I'd seen how much swing there was, I wanted to try to have a go at Steyn and get him out of the attack.
"I tried to play the situation but play my way - play straight, watch the ball, play late and hit the ball," Pietersen said. "I was just playing the ball on its merit - see ball, hit ball."
Pietersen also passed 7,000 test runs in the process, becoming the quickest to reach the landmark in seven years and 14 days. Previous record holder Graeme Smith had taken eight years and two days. Debutant James Taylor dug in for a creditable 34 at the other end in a fifth-wicket partnership of 147 with Pietersen, after his middle-order colleagues had rather gifted their wickets to the Proteas.
And Pietersen said the 11-inch height difference between himself and the 5ft 5 ins Nottinghamshire man brought a similar benefit to the contrast in styles with his long-time teammate Paul Collingwood - the pair's average partnership in 45 innings was 60.04.
"There's a bit of a height difference," Pietersen explained.
"Colly and I have one of the better partnership ratios for England because of that - Colly is so far back on his stumps, so you have to bowl different lengths.
"When they bowl a certain length to somebody shorter, I've preyed off a lot of balls that were pitched up for me to drive."