LEEDS: England team director Andy Flower said that he was ‘thinking optimistically’ about star batsman Kevin Pietersen’s chances of returning to fitness in time for the Ashes series against Australia.
A knee injury has kept Pietersen out of action since March, forcing him to miss the current series at home to New Zealand, the Indian Premier League, and next month’s Champions Trophy.
He hopes to be available for the Ashes series, which starts at Trent Bridge on July 10, and posted pictures of himself batting on Twitter earlier this week, much to Flower’s delight.
“We are thinking optimistically about Kevin’s injury improving and it’s nice that he’s pain free. That is great news for him and for us,” said Flower.
“Kevin’s a really special player and we want him back as soon as he’s fit enough to be back.”
Pietersen’s absence has allowed Yorkshire pair Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow to stake their claims for long-term involvement in the England set-up.
“Root has played well in all three forms of the game since he’s been given the chance, and it was also nice to see Bairstow celebrate Root’s success and do well in this Test match in both innings too.”
Pietersen’s return would necessitate a reshuffle of England’s batting order, but Flower was reluctant to discuss the suggestion that Root could be moved up the order at the expense of Nick Compton.
McCullum backs England for Ashes
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said England were ‘red hot favourites’ to retain the Ashes after the Black Caps had their ‘hearts ripped out’ by Alastair Cook’s men.
England completed a 2-0 series whitewash with a commanding 247-run victory over New Zealand in the second Test at Headingley on Tuesday. This was England’s last Test before the Ashes opener at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge ground in July.
Australian batsmen have struggled against the swinging ball in recent Ashes series and McCullum said, “England are red hot favourites at home, their ability to swing the Duke ball is huge. Any team that plays at home is familiar with the surroundings.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2013.
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