Bairstow to deputise for Pietersen
Jonny Bairstow will replace the injured Kevin Pietersen in the final Test against New Zealand at Eden Park, England captain Alastair Cook has confirmed.
England must go into the series decider without Pietersen, who is to fly home because of an injury in his right knee.
Pietersen today made the trip to watch England fine-tune their preparations in a net session, after which Cook spoke of his disappointment that the batsman is unavailable and his hope that Bairstow can rise to the occasion.
“Obviously, it’s a blow when you lose one of your senior batters and a guy who’s performed consistently well for us over a number of years,” he said.
“He’s a great player, and will be missed. But it gives an opportunity to Jonny Bairstow coming in.”
England must now hope that a best-case six-to-eight week recovery period - without surgery - will have Pietersen back in time for the Champions Trophy and Ashes beyond, and maybe even May’s return series at home to the Kiwis.
Cook added: “It’s important he’s fit as soon as he can be. You do look sometimes at future planning, but I think if this was an Ashes Test match he (still) wouldn’t be playing in it.
“If the injury is not so bad, as we hope, and it’s just a bit of rest and no operation needed then on the plus side he gets a bit of time off and is ready to go for the Ashes.
“He felt he could get through, and we felt he could get through, those two games. This game might be a step too far. He’s not fit to play, so we need a new player in.
“There are quite a lot of sportsmen who play when they’re not 100% fit. If you asked Jimmy (Anderson), through certain times in his spells, and Broady [Stuart Broad] when his heel (injury) was coming on, they felt it.
“He did, but felt he could get through the game and produce good enough performances to justify his selection.”
Ultimately, England have had to be advised by Pietersen as well as their medical experts.
“The scans can only tell so much. It’s got to be how the player feels as well,” said Cook. “My knee might, does, feel different to KP’s.
“It’s important now we don’t jump to too many conclusions. He goes home and gets to see the specialist, and sees exactly what’s wrong with him. We’ve just got to have a bit of luck with the scan in a couple of days’ time.”
Pietersen’s absence is England's second through injury on this tour, off-spinner Graeme Swann having had to miss the whole Test series to have surgery on his bowling elbow.
Cook added: “You want your best players available. But injuries - they’ve happened to Swanny on this tour, and now KP - are part and parcel of international sport.
“He’s played through a bit of pain for those first two games. At the moment, it’s not great for English cricket that one of our senior and best players has an injury concern going into the summer.”