Five years and four months after his famous innings that won the Ashes for England, Kevin Pietersen has removed all doubts about his importance to the side with his finest performance yet with bat and ball.

Day four of the second Test began on Monday with him reaching his highest Test score of 227 and ended with him taking the crucial wicket of Michael Clarke.

Though his previous best score of 226 came against the West Indies at Headingley in 2007, Pietersen has always struggled to top the 158 on the last day of the 2005 series - until this Test.

Pietersen had meanwhile been labelled an outcast in the lead-up to the Ashes by Shane Warne and former Australian coach John Buchanan, but England spinner Graeme Swann says this perception is unfounded.

“The only people who say he’s an outcast are those not in the group,” Swann said. “He’s as popular a member in our dressing room as anyone else. We absolutely love KP, especially when he’s getting a double hundred and taking their best player out in the last over.”

Swann said his spirits were lifted about the bowling possibilities when Pietersen returned to the dressing room for the tea interval on Sunday afternoon.

“I wasn’t watching yesterday, I was having a nap in the changing room,” Swann said. “It was lovely, air conditioned. KP came off and said ‘It’s turning square out there, it’s impossible to bat.”’

A day earlier, South African-born Pietersen credited his resurgence to the work he has done recently with Graham Ford in his native Natal. Ford was Pietersen’s childhood mentor and according to the England batsman knows his game better than anyone.

“The two or three little things that we worked on in South Africa have got me back to where I used to play,” Pietersen said.

Keywords: Ashes series

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