‘I was missing balls by a couple of inches on occasions ... it was real hard graft’

Kevin Pietersen admitted he had never worked harder for England after his unbeaten 202 put the hosts in charge of the first Test against India.

By the end of his marathon eight-hour knock, Pietersen was timing the ball gloriously and hitting boundaries at will, but for long periods he was forced to fight just to stay at the crease.

He looked at sea at the start of his innings on Thursday as the ball swung lavishly and his first 50 was the slowest of his international career, as the ball moved both ways off the pitch.

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But Pietersen showed the kind of patience not often associated with him to provide the brilliant cornerstone of the hosts’ 474-8 declared.

“It’s something to be proud of, definitely,” he said after his first century on home soil since August 2008.

“There’s been some fairly complimentary things being said to me in the dressing room.

“I’ve never had to work harder. With the conditions I batted in (on Thursday), and having to face (wicketkeeper) MS Dhoni for half an hour as well, I reckon it’s right up there with the hundreds I’ve scored.

“They bowled really well in swinging conditions and the pitch was seaming as well.

“I was missing balls by a couple of inches on occasions...it was real hard graft.”

Pietersen was reprieved on 49 when a borderline catch by Rahul Dravid was sent upstairs and rightly survived two referrals. One of those was off the bowling of captain Dhoni, who twice surrendered the gloves to see if his part-time seamers could tempt Pietersen into something rash.

“I had to review that one...I can’t get out to Dhoni,” he joked.

“He was difficult to get through, though. Whenever a wicketkeeper comes on to bowl it’s pretty hard and he got it swinging both ways and nipping. He’s just a very talented man.”

India will resume on 17-0 and Pietersen acknowledged England must do well in the field to try to force a result. But he held out some hope that the ball would continue to move sideways to put the pressure on a distinguished Indian batting line-up.

Praveen Kumar joined Pietersen on the Lord’s honours board after shouldering the burden of injured seamer Zaheer Khan to claim five wickets.

“It was a dream to play here, it was a good feeling,” he said.

“After taking four I was very confident of getting the fifth.

“It was not about pressure, it was about motivating myself and working hard.”

Former Yorkshire batsman and England World Twenty20 winner Michael Lumb has signed for the Sydney Sixers ahead of Australia’s the new Big Bash League.

The Sixers confirmed the opening batsman as their first overseas signings for the newly-formatted competition which will be held in January.