Friday, October 30, 2009

Pietersen return a 'huge boon' - Flower

England coach Andy Flower is excited about Kevin Pietersen's international return and believes the batsman is in the right frame of mind to take on South Africa in the upcoming series. Pietersen will stay in England to complete his recovery from an Achilles injury, and will join his team-mates on November 9 or 10 - in time for the first ODI.

Pietersen batted for the first time in three months on Friday in a training session at Lord's and Flower said there was still a bit of rehabilitation work to be done to get the batsman up to speed. "Hopefully, he'll be okay to play in the warm-up game against South Africa A and then ready to go at the start of the one-day series," Flower said. "That is what we are targeting. The infection has slowed everything up, otherwise he would have been back during the English summer. But he brings a superb record, flair, confidence and the ability to counter attack.

"The fact that we won the Ashes with limited contributions from the two big stars [Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff] is a good thing for the unit and the country's cricket and when they come back that adds strength and power. That's a good thing.

"He is important to us. He's a world-class player who has a special talent and a special confidence. He is a huge boon for us."

Pietersen was given a hard time by spectators on his last visit to his native country, but Flower believes the 29-year-old has won over his critics. "This time probably he will have the respect from the South African public," Flower said. "They love sport and cricket and I expect they will treat him with respect."

In fact, he said there were no issues with Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, who was also born in South Africa, facing their former countrymen. "The England teams historically have had people like Allan Lamb, Tony Greig and Graeme Hick," Flower said. "I don't see it being any different to that. From watching Trott in preparation for The Oval Test and in the Test itself he is 100% committed to this team and this country.

"I am quite happy with the situation. That's the way it is and has been for quite a long time. I am quite comfortable with the commitment shown by the guys."

England's tour of South Africa comprises two Twenty20 internationals, five ODIs and four Tests, with a handful of warm-up games. The tour gets underway on November 6 with England XI taking on a South African Board President's XI.

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