Kevin Pietersen has made a dream start to his county cricket return, scoring a century for Surrey and confirming he had been offered a "lifeline" by England.
Pietersen, batting at No.4, entered the fray at 2-13 in the 10th over after Surrey captain Gareth Batty won the toss and elected to bat against Oxford MCCU in a practice match at Oxford.
Dropped twice during his innings, he scored 170 in Surrey's 7-420 at The Parks on the opening day of a three-day match - his first hundred in any form of cricket since the Old Trafford Ashes Test of 2013.
The right-hander’s first boundary came 10 overs into his innings, before cruising to a half-century from 63 balls, bring up the milestone with his eighth four.
The 34-year-old reached triple-figures in the same fashion as he did his fifty, hitting medium pacer Matthew Hughes through the off-side for four to put his name in the spotlight and in front of the national selectors once again.
— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) April 12, 2015
The muted celebration featured a noticeable fist pump as the veteran looks to add to his 104 Tests for England this winter, the last of which came against Australia in Sydney 15 months ago.
Pietersen was sacked by the England and Wales Cricket Board following the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash at the hands of a rampant Australia, but the ECB last week sacked managing director Paul Downton, who played a key role in the decision to send the 34-year-old star batsman into international exile.
Incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves, who takes charge next month, has, in contrast to the previous regime, suggested Pietersen could force his way back into the England set-up through sheer weight of county runs.
"I've been given a lifeline," Pietersen said. "I really, really like the way that the new bosses are talking, from stuff that you read and stuff that you hear.
"All I've got to do is score runs.
"That's what was asked of me today and I've delivered.
"I just want England winning. I've not been happy over the last 14 months because England keep losing. It's not nice."
Normally brash and outspoken, Pietersen has been circumspect in his public comments since getting serious encouragement he could earn a recall. His autobiography published after his sacking caused enormous ructions within the England camp but he barely reacted - at least publicly - to the sacking of Downton.
None right now! Let me just work hard & try score a lot of runs... https://t.co/CzW4irmKsE— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) April 8, 2015
After passing his ton, Pietersen expanded his stroke play, ramping, reversing and slogging the inexperienced Oxford side to all parts of the picturesque ground, in particular 18-year-old Hughes.
Pietersen was eventually out for 170 from 149 balls, a knock featuring 24 fours and two damaging sixes.
— Andrew Miller (@miller_cricket) April 12, 2015
Pietersen passed up a lucrative Indian Premier League contract with Sunrisers Hyderabad to return to Surrey after Graves opened the door for the exiled batsman.
But former England captain Andrew Strauss has encouraged the ECB to "move on from the Kevin Pietersen situation."
A lad called Kevin just scored a hundred...
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) April 12, 2015
He's back! // Getty Images