Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pietersen Is Vital to Stop Wilting England from Toppling Over

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pietersen Is Vital to Stop Wilting England from Toppling Over

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID LLOYD

IT is a dangerous game but one England have played to perfection on two crucial occasions during their rise up the world Test rankings.

They came good when it really mattered in South Africa last winter and, even more memorably, they prospered during the summer Ashes series after reaching the point of no return.

The question now is can England peak again at just the right time in Pakistan or are they heading for a big fall only a couple of months after beating Australia and being hailed as conquering heroes?

Anyone unaware of the team's recent record who watched their batting in Rawalpindi last week and studied the overall performance in losing to Pakistan A in Lahore would be forced to conclude there is more trouble ahead.

Three days before the First Test here, England have an injured captain, a misfiring top order, a pace-bowling attack plainly missing tour absentee Simon Jones and a question mark over how best to balance the side.

It's not quite the script which most people, particularly skipper Michael Vaughan, had in mind when the Ashes winners were being saluted in Trafalgar Square in mid-September.

But that is the way it has panned out and now England, who today called up young Essex opener Alastair Cook as cover for Vaughan, must draw on experiences which are still easy to recall as they approach the first piece of serious business this winter.

Coach Duncan Fletcher was quick to mention last December's defeat by South Africa A, and the Test win that immediately followed that result, after yesterday's six-wicket defeat by Pakistan's second string.

But he might also have brought up England's fantastic fightback in the Ashes series. Soundly beaten at Lord's and written off by the majority, they had the mental strength as well as the technical and tactical ability to subdue Australia. …

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