Pietersen full of praise for Strauss

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Paul Collingwood And Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen (right) celebrates England retaining the Ashes with Paul Collingwood. "It’s the best feeling in my career," said the 30-year-old batsman

Kevin Pietersen insists retaining the Ashes in Australia tops anything he has previously achieved on a cricket field.

Even his part in England’s 2005 Ashes victory, the first for 18 years, or the repeat on home turf in 2009 do not apparently come close.

England have still to win this Ashes series - defeat in the final Test in Sydney next week would mean it finishes all square at 2-2 - but the urn is in safe keeping after victory by an innings and 157 runs at the MCG.

“It’s the best feeling in my career - nothing beats this,” said South Africa-born batsman Pietersen.

“As an Englishman, winning in England in 2005 was amazing after it had not been done for a certain amount of years.

“But people always talked about the fact that when you go to Australia it is a different kettle of fish - and last time we came here we got hammered.”

Captain Andrew Strauss recalled, within minutes of clinching the Ashes this time, the misery of that 5-0 2006/07 whitewash under Andrew Flintoff.

From the moment England set foot in Australia this winter, Pietersen felt things were different.

“This time we have come here knowing the preparation has been right, knowing what to expect from the crowds, from the public in the street - people in hotels and taxi drivers to people out in the middle.

“We were told ‘beware of this’ - and we knew what to expect.

“We always thought we would do a lot better than last time. I was confident of that, and that has proved right.”

Kevin Pietersen

Pietersen has contributed 324 runs to help England successfully defend the Ashes for the first time since 1987

That belief must have been shaken when Australia levelled the series with a 267-run win in Perth, on the back of Mitchell Johnson’s wonderful left-arm swing bowling.

But Pietersen was still sure England would bounce back.

“Yes, there’s a certain type of confidence one can have - either real confidence or fictitious confidence - and I had real confidence we could beat this Australian team.

“If you lose five wickets for 20, you lose the Test - and I knew why we lost five for 20.

“We lost five for 20 because we didn’t prepare for it; if Mitchell Johnson had swung the ball in this Test, we would have been prepared for it and he would have still gone for 140 in 20 overs.”

Former captain Pietersen was replaced by Strauss just under two years ago - and he has great admiration for the way his successor has since led the team.

Strauss is in an elite of England captains who can inscribe ’Ashes retained in Australia’ on their CV.

Pietersen said: “He looks after himself and after everyone else, which is a great quality of a great captain.

“What he has achieved has not been achieved for 24 years, and I have always had utmost respect for Straussy.

“When he gave me the phone call and said ‘the ECB want me to captain (in 2009), are you okay with that?’ I said ‘go for it, Straussy, you’re a top man’.

“I said ’I’m a good mate of yours, go for it, do whatever you need to’ - and I’ve been proved right. It was a good decision by the ECB.”

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