Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Will Be Hoping Practice Makes Perfect for KP Ahead of the Serious Stuff; Under-Fire Star Must Use Tour Matches to Show He's Back to His Best as Competition Hots Up for Places in the First Ashes Test

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Will Be Hoping Practice Makes Perfect for KP Ahead of the Serious Stuff; Under-Fire Star Must Use Tour Matches to Show He's Back to His Best as Competition Hots Up for Places in the First Ashes Test

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Agnew BBC Cricket Correspondent in Perth

APART from the decision to ask the players to do boxing, which I still can't get my head around, England's preparations for this tour are much better than they were four years ago.

Before the 2006-07 series, England played only two three-day matches -- including a 14-a-side game against New South Wales -- before going into the Ashes and we all know how that series ended.

This time, the planning seems to have been very good. On this tour, they will play three first-class matches against good teams, with the first against Western Australia starting here in Perth tomorrow, and they can't ask for any more than that. If the players fail to make the most of it, it's their fault.

The second first-class match is against South Australia in Adelaide before the final one, against Australia 'A' in Hobart. There is some talk England will not play their strongest team at Hobart but I hope they are not silly enough to do that. They must put out their best team in that match so they can go into Brisbane hard. If the first-choice bowling attack were rested from that game -- as some are suggesting it might be -- I would not be at all happy.

Both Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower will breathe a huge sigh of relief if Kevin Pietersen's batting clicks into place during these tour matches. He is the man everyone will be looking at over the next three games, unless he can score a hundred against Western Australia. If he can do that, it will shut everybody up and take the focus off him. Even in the practice match within the England squad at a club ground on the outskirts of Perth yesterday, Pietersen struggled and was caught at slip early on. Of course, nobody was really watching it but because it was Pietersen, everyone sat up and took a little more notice.

He has looked quite jovial so far and a bit more cheerful than he was. It will be fascinating to see how he comes back from being dropped for the Twenty20 and one-day series against Pakistan in the summer.

The batsmen under pressure are Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood. If everything goes to plan, they will all score runs in these matches and Ian Bell will replace Eoin Morgan at No6 for the Tests. …

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