SPORT

Flower wants Pietersen to tie up county deal

Kevin Pietersen has been told to find himself a new county by next season or risk jeopardising his England central contract.

But England coach Andy Flower says it won't worry him if Pietersen's domestic cricket future is unresolved by the time the side heads off to Australia for an Ashes defence starting in November.

Pietersen has made it clear he intends to leave Hampshire at the end of the current English season in September — a move that has led the south coast club to refuse to pick him twice when available.

The South Africa born batsman has said he wants to play for a county nearer his Chelsea home, in south-west London, suggesting a move to either one of capital clubs Middlesex or Surrey. But whether any county would want Pietersen on their books, given how little they would see of him should he remain an England regular, is a moot point. Pietersen's situation has also raised the prospect of him becoming the first ‘freelance' England Test cricketer.

Pietersen has gone more than a year without a Test century although he did make 80 in England's nine-wicket win over Pakistan. Meanwhile Flower was heartened by the way Pietersen, dropped three times, grafted for runs under overcast, swing-friendly skies and on a pitch of variable pace at Edgbaston.

“They were tricky conditions to bat in the first innings. I quite enjoyed watching Pietersen battle for his runs and get 80 in a small total. That was very good for him and obviously good for the team.

“The fact that he was dropped a few times shouldn't detract from the innings,” former Zimbabwe batsman Flower insisted. “He got 80 in a difficult situation and worked extremely hard for those runs.” — AFP

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