Flower upbeat over Pietersen fitness
England expect Kevin Pietersen to be fit following his knee injury in time for their Test rematch with New Zealand in May.
Pietersen will spend the next two weeks wearing a knee brace after the latest scans brought heartening news for Alastair Cook’s team following their backs-to-the-wall defiance to secure a series stalemate in Auckland yesterday.
As England prepared to fly home, team director Andy Flower delivered an upbeat bulletin on the cause of Pietersen’s pain in his right leg and the treatment for it.
The mercurial batsman was missing from the final Test, in which England dug in for a dramatic draw with nine wickets down thanks to centurion Matt Prior, number 11 Monty Panesar et al.
“We anticipate him playing a full part in the summer,” said Flower. “He’s been in some pain, but we hope he’ll be ready to go by the start of the summer.”
When Pietersen left the tour last week, England were optimistic he would not need surgery - and so it has proved.
Pietersen first hurt himself in training before the start of the series in Queenstown a month ago. He had been complaining of pain in his knee ever since and, after flying home, he underwent a second set of scans on the injury on Monday.
“Kevin has had a further scan, which confirms a bone injury and bone bruising, and he is being put in a brace for two weeks,” Flower added. “He will be off exercise, or any impact exercise, after that for another couple of weeks. Then he’ll start his rehab.”
On the field, in Pietersen’s absence, England got themselves into a tough spot at Eden Park after some faulty first-innings batting and indifferent bowling.
Ian Bell, Prior, Stuart Broad and finally Panesar came to the rescue after they began the final day with only six wickets standing between the Black Caps and a first home Test series win over England in almost 30 years.
“We fought incredibly well to come out of that series, or certainly out of that third game, with a draw,” said Flower. “I thought Bell and Prior were especially magnificent. Broad reined himself in, and took a big chunk of time and balls out of the game.
“We went into that last day with only six wickets in hand, so to draw it in the end was a great achievement.”
England’s durability to salvage a draw with nine wickets down is no rarity in Flower’s reign, after three similar great escapes from 2009 to 2010 - against Australia and South Africa.
“It’s great to have close games,” he added. “It’s really good for the public; it’s really exciting for us. You can’t dominate all the time, and I was very proud of the way our guys fought.
“What I would like to see is the same sort of determination, same sort of skill, shown at the start of games - then we can get into winning positions more often.”
Flower will not allow dramatic late redemption to paper over a disappointing series overall for England against hosts ranked six places below them in the International Cricket Council Test table.
“We expected, in these conditions, to play better,” he said. “One of the factors is that the New Zealand swing bowlers did swing it, and we didn’t consistently.”
Flower is looking forward already, though, to setting the record straight in two home Tests against New Zealand at Lord’s and Headingley Carnegie in May.
“We have not played great cricket out here in New Zealand,” he admitted. “But I would say New Zealand have played well. Their bowlers swung the ball continually, and it should make for an interesting series at the start of the summer.”
As for the rest of the Test summer featuring the first of two back-to-back Ashes series, Flower will soon be planning ahead again.
He said: “That’s exactly what we want, to be put in pressure situations, to be tested. That’s why we play the game, to see how good we can be.
“The Ashes has a wonderful history, and everyone will be looking forward to it. But the New Zealand series will be important, at two grounds where - possibly at the start of the summer - the ball swings.”
While England were battling to avoid defeat in New Zealand, Australia were haplessly failing to do so in India - losing 4-0 in a country where their Ashes opponents won 2-1 three months earlier.
“They had a tough time out there (in India). It’s a really tough place to tour,” added Flower. “The Ashes are a little way off. There is some great cricket to be played in the meantime - by us, we hope.”