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Aussie's off to a winning start

Kevin Pietersen was put in the shade by Matthew Hayden as Australia's batsmen served notice of their Ashes potential with an eight-wicket victory over the PCA Masters XI.

Kevin Pietersen was put in the shade by Matthew Hayden as Australia's batsmen served notice of their Ashes potential with an eight-wicket victory over the PCA Masters XI in tonight's Twenty20 curtain-raiser at Arundel.

Pietersen was seen off as the middle man in a hat-trick by Michael Clarke to stall the Masters' impetus in a total of 167 for six.

Twenty20 expert Darren Maddy (70no) held the innings together with a 41-ball half-century, but it proved to be in vain as the tourists reached the target with a ball to spare.

Hayden (79) and his opening partner Adam Gilchrist (53) did the damage, giving English supporters an early glimpse of their enduring capabilities.

Old 'masters' Chris Lewis and Devon Malcolm bore the brunt of Hayden's assault against the new ball, Gilchrist looking almost out of sorts in comparison until a six off the ex-Leicestershire all-rounder got him going in an opening stand of 131.

When Hayden had tired of smashing the ageing pacemen to all parts, he brought up his 50 by sweeping his 32nd ball for six off Shaun Udal - and duly celebrated with a repeat stroke for another maximum at his former Hampshire team-mate's expense.

Gilchrist had been relatively slow to catch on but was hardly a slouch in posting his half-century off 45 deliveries, after Hayden had gone to a smart return catch by medium-pacer Paul Collingwood.

In worsening light and with the PCA bringing back the pace of Chris Tremlett, Australia needed Gilchrist to finish the job.

The run rate meant it was never a coast to victory, and it got dicey for the Aussies at the death. But Gilchrist read the script well enough to stay put until holing out off Tremlett in the penultimate over as he and his captain Ricky Ponting did the necessary to get the tourists home with a ball left in the innings.

The Masters, put in first on a warm evening, had earlier hit immediate trouble when captain Stephen Fleming fluffed his lines by fencing the first ball of the match off Brett Lee to his opposite number Ponting at second slip.

After the New Zealander's instant elimination, Collingwood and Maddy built the required momentum - with first-change Mike Kasprowicz helping them out by dropping too short too often.

They made hay in a 68-run second-wicket stand until the Durham all-rounder was done in the air by Clarke and failed to clear deep extra-cover off the final ball of the slow left-armer's first over.

Much of the crowd had come to see English cricket's rising star Pietersen and were therefore probably delighted to see Collingwood off for a useful cameo in time to clear the way for their hero in waiting.

They were less enchanted, though, when Pietersen - who had spent the early hours of this morning failing in a publicity stunt to hit a cricket ball across the River Thames in central London - made only six runs before his second less-than-successful swipe of the day presented a dolly catch close to the popping crease for wicketkeeper Gilchrist.

Clarke completed his hat-trick when Graeme Swann donated his wicket first ball, taking the occasion a little too literally by going 'walkabout' to be stumped down the leg-side.

Maddy - the guiding force behind Leicestershire's unexpected march to Twenty20 glory last year - also soon lost his county colleague Paul Nixon, the victim of a run-out mix-up.

But there followed a sturdy alliance of 72 with ex-England all-rounder Mark Ealham, whose party piece was a last-over blitz of a pull for six and then four.

Aussie pace spearhead Glenn McGrath had the last word with a yorker to disturb Eahlam's leg stump and close out a target which in the final analysis simply allowed his batting team-mates an opportunity to flex their muscles in public.

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