NAPIER, New Zealand -- Kevin Pietersen ended England's century drought and prevented a complete capitulation on day one of the third and deciding Test match against New Zealand.
Pietersen raises his bat to celebrate his century on the opening day of the third Test against New Zealand.
The Hampshire batsman hit a superb 129 after nearly five hours at the crease -- becoming the first member of England's top six to hit a first innings century for eight Test matches -- after New Zealand's inexperienced attack made a mockery of pre-match predictions.
The tourists' top order again failed to deliver and were reduced to four for three before Pietersen's defiant ton, which included 12 fours and a six, helped a recovery to 240 for seven at the close at McLean Park.
It was Pietersen's first century in six Tests and his first time past 50 in 10 innings, but he was the only member of the top seven to show the necessary application despite England winning the toss and deciding to bat on a flat wicket.
England named an unchanged side and entered the final Test with all the momentum having won the second Test at Wellington.
New Zealand were without seamer Kyle Mills (knee) and all-rounder Jacob Oram (hip) forcing the selection of debutants Tim Southee and Grant Elliott.
It was a gamble which paid off with 19-year-old seamer Southee claiming two wickets in his first spell as England slumped to four for three. He later returned with the new ball to dismiss Pietersen.
Southee struck with his 11th ball in Test cricket when he swung the ball into England captain Michael Vaughan's pads and won an lbw appeal from umpire Rudi Koertzen.
Just six balls later Southee claimed his second wicket and continued Andrew Strauss' miserable run. The Middlesex left-hander drove loosely outside off stump and was caught smartly in the gully by Jamie How for a duck.
Strauss, recalled after missing the series defeat in Sri Lanka before Christmas, took his tally for the series to just 107 runs in five innings and is without a half-century in seven innings.
Opener Alastair Cook followed in the next over for two when he pushed forward to seamer Chris Martin and got an inside edge onto his stumps as England lost three wickets without adding a run in just 17 balls.
It left both Ian Bell and Pietersen with the responsibility of guiding England to a respectable total, knowing they must end the dismal run of eight Tests without a first innings century for any member of the top six.
But after progressing to a determined nine in over an hour at the crease, Bell became the first victim for South African-born all-rounder Elliott when he attempted to force the ball back down the pitch off the back foot and gave the bowler a straightforward return catch.
Paul Collingwood, who had to pass a fitness test on a bruised left calf to retain his place, battled for over an hour for his 30 and gave England hope they could recover from their dismal start.
However, the Durham all-rounder fell with an attempted cut shot off off-spinner Jeetan Patel and guided the ball tamely to point.
Tim Ambrose, man of the match at the Basin Reserve, batted intelligently until just seven balls before lunch when he pushed hard defensively at Patel and edged to Ross Taylor at slip.
It was not until Stuart Broad arrived at the crease with England in desperate trouble at 147 for six that Pietersen found a partner capable of providing him with solid support.
Broad contributed a useful 18 to their 61-run stand before Pietersen fell to Southee's second delivery with the new ball, driving loosely and giving How a diving catch in the gully.
But with nine overs to survive before the close, Broad teamed up with Ryan Sidebottom and reached a Test best 42 by the close, which included hooking Southee for six.
Meanwhile, three wickets in the final session, including the scalp of Malinda Warnapura for a maiden Test hundred of 120, wobbled Sri Lanka after their batsmen revelled in the first Test against West Indies in Guyana on Saturday.
Left-hander Warnapura, opening the batting, maximised ideal conditions to give Sri Lanka a solid base, but West Indies struck back in the final period to leave the visitors on 269 for four in their first innings when stumps were drawn on the opening day. E-mail to a friend