Kevin Pietersen would have been slightly embarrassed by the celebrations that followed him completing his fourth test hundred at Edgbaston yesterday, even though his wonderful innings has taken England to the verge of a comprehensive victory.

For a young man who takes great pride in being fashionable, dropping his bat in the middle of an ecstatic, punching-the-air leap is rather uncool. Yet it proved to be the only moment on the second day of the second test that Pietersen was not in total control of the piece of willow in his hands.

He was simply awesome as he propelled England to a winning position. And it was just as well for the home side that he did bat with such authority because the next highest score by an England batsman was 30.

Muttiah Muralitharan (6-86) had England's batting in bits but there were times when Pietersen treated him like a club bowler.

It was the dismissal of Pietersen on 142, when he missed an attempted sweep at Muralitharan and was correctly given out, that instigated the clatter of wickets but it would be harsh to place any portion of blame on the South African's shoulders.

When Pietersen is in this sort of form and mood it is almost impossible to bowl at him. There are few areas where the ball can be hidden and he has the power and range of strokes to hit the ball wherever he wants.

Pietersen was fortunate to survive a close lbw appeal from Muralitharan when he was on 55 and provided an expectant crowd with glimpses of what was to come before lunch but it was after the interval that he went through his entire repertoire.

His style has been compared to that of Viv Richards but there are shots England's No 4 plays that the great West Indian would not even contemplate. The astonishing reverse-sweep for six off Muralitharan was a typical example of this. It was, without doubt, one of the most amazing shots recent test cricket has seen. But it is the topspin whips through mid-on that leave fast bowlers scratching their heads and wondering what an earth they can do to compete with him.

Muralitharan rates Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar as the two best batsmen he has bowled at but it cannot be long before Pietersen's name is added to the list.

- INDEPENDENT