London: South Africa-born Kevin Pietersen said he felt "as English as anyone" after marking his first Test innings against the Proteas with an unbeaten 104 at Lord's here Thursday.
The crowd at the normally reserved 'home of cricket' were almost as overjoyed as Pietersen himself and their reaction was not lost on the 28-year-old.
"It was one of the most emotional two minutes of my career so far. The crowd made me feel so loved," Pietersen told reporters.
"Before there was a lot of speculation about me being from South Africa but for the crowd to be like that was unbelievable. There was a lot of nonsense but now I feel as English as anyone."
But Pietersen admitted even this innings had taken him aback. "Sometimes in life the script is written and someone was writing a pretty incredible script for me today.
"It's all about sport and I am so humbled by the support I've been given."
Pietersen's decision to quit his homeland in order to play for England, the land of his mother's birth, has proved controversial in both South Africa and his adopted nation.
But what really stung South Africans adjusting to the post-apartheid era was Pietersen's public criticisms of a racial quota system in domestic cricket which he blamed for hampering his progress and forcing him to come to England seven years ago, where he initially joined Nottinghamshire.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith was among those especially annoyed by the comments of Pietersen, who branded the opening batsman "a muppet" in his autobiography.
However, Pietersen insisted any ill-feeling was now all in the past.
"I've no problems with any of the South Africans. Graeme and I had a bit of an altercation four years ago but that's gone," he said.
"Andre Nel gave me a big hug and they (the South Africans) were brilliant with me today."
Meanwhile, Proteas pace bowler Morne Morkel, who took two wickets, added: "Kevin played an unbelievable innings."
Pietersen, who put this display on a par with the 158 he made to secure the draw which saw England regain the Ashes at The Oval in 2005, led a revival which left his side on 309 for three at stumps on the first day of this four-Test series.
And, together with Ian Bell (75 not out) he shared an unbroken stand of 192 in 46 overs.
Bell, had come into this match under scrutiny after making just 45 runs during England's three home Tests against New Zealand earlier in the season, and Pietersen said: "He was under pressure but he played one of the best innings I have ever seen Ian Bell play."
However, Pietersen - who scored 91 runs in the final session alone - warned that there was much work to do against a South Africa side which recently leapfrogged England into second place in the world Test rankings.
"Day one was England's day but there are five days in a Test and, against a great side like South Africa, it's important we tighten the screws."