LONDON: England's last-minute inclusion of Kevin Pietersen in its one-day squad to take on Sri Lanka in a five-match series beginning next week greatly strengthens a team reeling after several injury blows. For all his three successive home Test hundreds, Pietersen first made his name as a one-day batsman during the 2004-5 tour of South Africa.
Now that he has fully recovered from his hamstring injury, which first happened during the second Test and was made worse during the third, Pietersen is sure to play in all the matches, including the full one-day international against Ireland in Belfast on Tuesday.
The Stormont ground is already sold out, mainly on the popularity of the big hitting Pietersen. You only have to glance at his figures to see why: in 24 innings he has scored 1179 runs, with three centuries and eight other fifties to average 65.50. His strike rate is 98.41 and his runs come at six an over.
His presence will compensate to some extent for the loss of Michael Vaughan, the captain, Andrew Flintoff, the stand-in skipper and the fast bowler Simon Jones, now unlikely to play competitive cricket until the start of next season. Jones had a key-hole surgery to his left knee in America this week and it is forecast that he will not be able to start training again until November, about the time the Ashes series begins. Jones, whose father had to retire early through injury, is not a one-day specialist and unlikely to be in the World Cup squad.
Vaughan is making steady progress after returning to the Yorkshire side and Flintoff has been told to rest in an attempt to avoid an operation on his left ankle. "We will only operate as a last resort," said a Board spokesman, adding that it was hoped Vaughan and Flintoff would be fit for the Pakistan Test series starting next month.