Pietersen with time to flourish
Andy Flower spoke to ECBtv after arriving in Durban - watch the interview
Andy Flower warns England must stay patient with Kevin Pietersen - even if the man himself finds it hard to do the same in his search for a major innings.
Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen will be back at what was once his home ground this week as England seek to convert a 2-1 lead into a notable one-day international series victory over South Africa.
The timing might have been better, though, for the 29-year-old - still only five matches into his England comeback after four months out following Achilles surgery and with just 52 runs from three attempts in this series.
England team director Flower insists he has no qualms about Pietersen’s progress.
He advises it is unfair to expect too much too soon, but nonetheless senses Friday’s match at Kingsmead could be the ideal stage for England’s inked-in ODI number three to announce himself once again.
“I wouldn’t be too worried. I think he’s going to take a little while to get back in form,” said Flower.
“Being out for four months - when he’s used to playing all the time - I think is a challenge he’s going to have to overcome.
“He’s a high achiever, an outstanding sportsman, and he will be very impatient to get back into his dominant ways again.
“I think we should be patient with him, because it’s not easy just to walk back in and dominate straight away.”
Flower is confident about the long-term prospects for a batsmen who still generates a noisy and hostile response from cricket crowds in his native country - and he has a sneaking feeling that first big score may be imminent.
“He tends to want to do it his way,” he confirmed. “That’s part of his strength, his make-up - what makes him a different and very powerful player for us.
“He will score heavy runs on this tour, and maybe Friday is the day. It could be his day.”
Flower added: “I’m sure he is frustrated, because he chases success - and quite rightly.
“But I don’t think he’ll be fretting. He’s working very hard, and I’m sure he will score heavy runs at some stage of this tour. I don’t see a problem.”
Pietersen made only three runs in Port Elizabeth, but England had South Africa all but beaten by that time, going one up with only one match to play on the back of James Anderson’s maiden five-wicket haul.
“We played brilliantly,” Flower recalled. “Obviously the bowlers won the game for us, and 2-1 up with one to play is a great position to be in.
“We came here to win the series. It would be a huge achievement, and we would be very proud to take this one-day series.
“We know the South Africans are a very good side, number one in the world (in the Test rankings) - so to get into this position is very good.
“Yes, we’re inconsistent and we have some huge ups and downs - and we are trying to do something about that.”
England have proven, however, that they can mix it with the best, albeit in the light of Jacques Kallis’ withdrawal from the series.
“Any team is vulnerable if you put them under pressure,” Flower added. “We have tremendous respect for them. But a player they have certainly missed is Jacques Kallis.
“Even though they’re the number one side in the world, they can be beaten - and we’ve played some good cricket so far to get in the lead.
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. There is one big game on Friday, and then we’ll reassess for the Test series.”