Pietersen predicts improvement

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Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen cuts a relaxed figure outside the England hotel in Melbourne ahead of the potentially decisive fourth Ashes Test

Kevin Pietersen insists England will learn from the mistakes made against Mitchell Johnson in Perth as they chase an Ashes-clinching victory at the MCG.

Pietersen was one of three top-order batsmen who made just nine first-innings runs between them as Johnson's late inswing proved too much in England's 267-run defeat at the WACA.

England's number four has learned much from that regrettable experience, and promises the tourists will be ready for whatever Johnson can deliver in the Boxing Day Test.

"He took us by surprise, for sure," Pietersen admitted. "He bowled well, really, really well, and had a good game of cricket - and we're going to have to prepare ourselves for that swinging ball.

“We knew he could swing it, but we didn't realise he would swing it that much.”

Johnson's nine wickets last week were in stark contrast to his match figures of 0-170 - and 19-ball duck, for good measure - in the drawn first Test in Brisbane, after which he was dropped for the second in Adelaide.

"He did some really good work in the week off he had," added Pietersen. “But we will be a lot better prepared for it here in Melbourne, so we will play him a lot better."

Pietersen, like team director Andy Flower and opening batsman Alastair Cook before him, has made it abundantly clear England will be entirely unconcerned if - as expected - another quick pitch is prepared for the MCG.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting noted England's perceived vulnerability on bouncy surfaces both before and after their defeat on a typically lively WACA surface.

Pietersen anticipates the drop-in strip in Melbourne will be pacy too, but will be losing no sleep at that prospect.

Mitchell Johnson & Kevin Pietersen

Mitchell Johnson traps Pietersen lbw at the WACA. The batsman admitted England were surprised by how much he swung the ball

"Of course they are going to do it," he said. "They've just had success in Perth on a bouncy wicket, but we've had success around the world on bouncy wickets.

"We lost that Test within half an hour, five for 20 - that's where we lost it. Full, swinging balls knocked over our top order.

"We didn't lose it to a bouncy wicket; we lost it to balls that swung that we didn't prepare ourselves properly for.

"We will be prepared fully for everything come Sunday morning, so I don't think the wicket will play any different part.”

With the series poised at 1-1 with two games to play, and approaching 100,000 people expected to fill the MCG on each of the first three days, the stakes could hardly be higher.

Pietersen, who is taking part in his fourth Ashes series, sees the forthcoming match as an even grander stage than the one on which made his name five years ago with an urn-clinching hundred at the Oval.

"Leading 2-1 in ’05 going into an Oval Test was pretty big, but this is huge," he continued.

"Having won a Test, lost a Test, two to play, one to win to take the Ashes home is an incredible opportunity for the team.

"It could be potentially around 400,000 people watching the five days. That is so exciting. I've played a little bit, and I get goosebumps thinking about it.

"Everyone in the team, including the management, and the Australians are really looking forward to it.”

Pietersen was among those who exchanged words with Johnson in Perth, one of several heated moments during a Test that was notable for its intensity.

But Pietersen insists, contrary to reports, there was nothing untoward or even especially notable in the back-chat at the WACA.

"I've played against Australia I don't know how many Test matches - and believe me, the first time I played and the second time I came out here, the likes of Warne, McGrath etc, there were some pretty big verbal contests," he said.

MCG

Groundstaff work on the MCG pitch. Pietersen is unconcerned by suggestions that, like Perth, it will offer pace and bounce

"I haven't seen or heard anything different (in Perth) from what's happened in the first two Tests, let alone last year in England. There are not any big chirpers or sledgers.

"It's England v Australia, an Ashes series. Blokes get the red mist occasionally; you're allowed to do that - things happen. You're playing for that little urn. It's historic; it's huge.

"But there's nothing that's been overboard, and if things go overboard match referees deal with stuff like that. There's not been anything close to it."

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