KP - The team were brilliant

Smith puts South Africa's below-par display display down to rustiness

Last Updated: 22/08/08 11:27pm

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Pietersen and Flintoff: Celebrating century stand

Pietersen and Flintoff: Celebrating century stand

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England captain Kevin Pietersen praised his players after their 20-run win over South Africa - but quickly warned them not to rest on their laurels.

The new skipper hit 90 not out to help the hosts take a 1-0 lead in the five-match NatWest series at Headingley Carnegie.

Although he also took two wickets with his off-spin it was far from a one-man show, with Steve Harmison marking his return to one-day action with 2-43.

Andrew Flintoff also played a starring role, hitting 78 in a 158-run stand with Pietersen before then wrapping up South Africa's innings in the final over of the contest.

Good job

"The team were brilliant this evening," Pietersen told Sky Sports. "The whole day, they were pretty good.

"The boys did a good job today. I asked a lot of the lads. I think there are a few areas we can still improve but all round, I can't blame anyone.

"There's no point resting on our laurels, though. It is a long series, still four more games to play.

"We always start well and we end up messing it up a bit so I think Nottingham (on Tuesday) is a huge fixture for us."

Pietersen was particularly pleased with the efforts of Harmison after the Durham bowler had only agreed to come out of retirement 24 hours earlier.

"He was absolutely brilliant," he added.

"He came back into the team and what we asked of him, he delivered again. It was a big plus for Steve and big pluses for all the boys. They played brilliantly today.

"For Steve to make a U-turn at the last hour was magnificent and he delivered today. Long may that continue."

South Africa skipper Graeme Smith put the tourists below-par performance down to rustiness.

Improvements

The Proteas, who had only two warm-up games against the England Lions prior to the first one-dayer in Leeds, will be hoping to do better in the second match at Trent Bridge next Tuesday.

"I don't think we played our best one-day game of the last two years," he said.

"We showed a lot of rustiness throughout and the fact is we haven't had the greatest build-up to this series.

"There is a lot to improve on before Nottingham. We were way below par, we know we can improve a hell of a lot and that is encouraging for us."

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