Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pain-Free Pietersen on Course for Ashes Opener, Says Flower

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pain-Free Pietersen on Course for Ashes Opener, Says Flower

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Collomosse Cricket Correspondent

ANDY FLOWER expects Kevin Pietersen to play in the First Ashes Test against Australia as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

England's most explosive batsman revealed this week that he had resumed practice and both Flower and the player's county, Surrey, hope he will be involved in at least one first-class match before the battles with Australia begin at Trent Bridge on July 10.

Pietersen's return would mean that either Nick Compton or Jonny Bairstow would make way but following their 2-0 series win over New Zealand, it is clear England are desperate to have Pietersen back.

"We are thinking optimistically," said England coach Flower. "His injury is improving and it is nice that he is pain free, which is great news both for him and for us.

"Kevin is a special player and we want him back as soon as he is fit enough to be back. So this is good for us and hopefully his improvement graph will keep going in the same way."

In Pietersen's absence against New Zealand, Joe Root seized his chance to shine. The Yorkshire batsman scored his maiden Test century at Headingley, his home ground, on Saturday, and claimed the man-of-the-series award for his performances in Leeds and in the First Investec Test at Lord's.

Since his Test debut against India in Nagpur in December, Root has looked thoroughly at ease in the international arena. His performances in the middle order, and Compton's recent uncertain displays as Alastair Cook's opening partner, mean he could be promoted against Australia.

While Flower was reluctant to discuss his thinking for the five Tests that lie ahead this summer, he is confident that Root (right) can become an integral part of this team in all forms of the game.

"I don't think any of us can foretell the future but he has played outstandingly well in all three forms of the game since he has been given the chance to play international cricket," Flower admitted.

"That is testament to his character and to his skill and I would imagine it is also really nice for all the people who have worked with him over the years to see him handle international cricket as well as he has done. …

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