- Surrey v Essex, NatWest T20, The Oval
Pietersen fails on return as Surrey lose
Essex 155 for 5 (Westley 44, ten Doeschate 43) beat Surrey (Roy 57, Wilson 45) by six wickets
Kevin Pietersen was greeted with several boos on his return to cricket in England and did not quell the naysayers with just an eight-ball stay in his first match for Surrey since being sacked by the ECB in February.
An Oval crowd of very few empty seats saw Pietersen make just 5 but Ryan ten Doeschate, who followed Pietersen home from the IPL, lead Essex to victory with 43 in 32 balls for his side's third win in the competition.
Pietersen trotted to the wicket in the final over the Powerplay of the first innings, with the cheers just managing to eclipse the dissenting voices - potentially all from the Essex supporters - but after facing seven balls from left-arm bowlers tried to slap the first he received from a right-armer - Ravi Bopara - and lifted it to long-on where ten Doeschate held a solid catch.
The failure was no great shock. Pietersen's IPL form was ordinary - he averaged just below 30 in 11 matches for Delhi, whom he captained to finish bottom of the table winning only twice in 14 games - and this was a difficult pitch on which to time the ball. The highest score in the last 10 domestic T20s at The Oval is only 155.
But ten Doeschate, who fared worse than Pietersen in the IPL with only 52 runs in seven innings - almost half of those in one knock - found his touch with three boundaries in the 18th over when 21 were needed in 18 balls. It killed the chase that was always under control after a maiden from Azhar Mahmood in the 11th over was followed by boundaries from the final ball of the next three overs.
Their pursuit was given a bright start by Jesse Ryder, whose last visit to The Oval was in the 2009 World T20. He took the opening two balls of the innings for four and six off Robin Petersen before hitting Jade Dernbach's first over for 14, including a brilliantly-timed pick-up shot over midwicket. He blazed 31 in just 15 balls before swinging at Kevin O'Brien and being bowled. Two overs later O'Brien ran out Mark Pettini with a direct hit from backward point.
But Tom Westley, playing just his 12th T20, steered Essex to good effect in the absence of a contribution from Ravi Bopara, caught at deep midwicket for 15. Westley and ten Doeschate added 51 for the fourth wicket to help overshadow Pietersen's return.
Pietersen was forced to begin against Tymal Mills, one of the few genuinely quick bowlers in the country. A push wide of mid-off to his fourth ball got Pietersen off the mark with a single before Tim Phillips, the left-arm spinner, was rather predictably brought back at the other end. Pietersen carefully negotiated two singles and a two but the first ball he faced from Bopara in the next over was lifted straight to long-on.
Bopara also had Roy caught by the same fielder but not before Roy had extended his excellent start to the T20 Blast. To his seventh ball he took one step down the wicket and lifted Tom Salisbury almost into the dressing rooms. More boundaries followed down the ground and there was also a perfectly-executed reverse sweep in his 38-ball fifty.
Surrey needed a second contribution to get above the par score - around 140 in domestic T20s at The Oval - and Gary Wilson provided it with 45 in 38 balls including a slog sweep off Reece Topley into a lively OCS Stand.
Follow Alex Winter on Twitter @winter_cricket