Pietersen's fine form pleases Strauss
Andrew Strauss was to delighted to see Kevin Pietersen “back to his best” as England begin their long build-up to the Ashes defence in Australia.
Pietersen was hit by an Achilles injury during last summer’s Ashes campaign and he struggled for runs in South Africa, scoring just 177 in four Tests at an average of 25.
But Pietersen arrested his slump with 99 in the first Test against Bangladesh and unbeaten 74 in the second to show a timely return to form.
England face Bangladesh and Pakistan at home this summer before attempting to win the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time since 1986-87.
Strauss said: “He was always going to come back into form sooner rather than later. He is an absolute class player and is our best player by a distance.
“People were getting on his case but I knew it was only a matter of time. It was good from his perspective and it sets him up really well.
“The way he was playing at the end though shows he is back to his best.
“Looking forward to the Ashes you need probably five out of your top six batsmen to be in really top nick and someone like KP has the ability to take the game away from the opposition.
“He is going to be crucial to our chances - but you only win an Ashes series if the whole team does its job so we won’t be pinning all our hopes on him.”
Strauss is relishing the chance to take hold of the captaincy reins from Alastair Cook, who impressed as an able deputy during the one-day and Test series whitewashess in Bangladesh.
Strauss is not ready to let Cook take over full time - but he knows the extra leadership experienced can only help England’s development.
“I have been captain for just over 12 months and I look to this next Ashes and beyond this Ashes. I have got no plans to give up the game of cricket in the near future that is for sure. There are still a few years left,” added Strauss.
“No-one knows how long I am going to go on, no-one knows what the state of the England team is going to be like when I finish up so to nail him down as my successor would be wrong.
“What I would say is that he is one of the guys who we have identified as having the potential to do the job and one thing that was lacking for him was captaining sides.
“He has long been earmarked as a potential captain because he is a very grounded individual. He works hard, he does everything right and he is very well respected within the group for doing that.
“He has enhanced his standing although his standing has always been very high in the team. I am sure I will benefit from having him as vice-captain in terms of him knowing a bit more about what the job entails and how he can help out.
“We have got Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen in there and Cooky has had a go and sometimes you are looking for ideas.
“The more people that are thinking as a captain rather than thinking about their own game is healthy for me and for the team as an entity.”
Strauss praised Cook’s leadership in Bangladesh and the fact the captaincy did not detract from his batting; Cook averaged 114 in the Test series.
“If I got injured this season then he would take over definitely - I think he's done an excellent job,” Strauss told BBC Radio Five.
"It's not easy when you have not had much experience captaining sides before to come in and captain England with all the attention that goes alongside it, and I think he dealt with that side of it very well.
"It obviously didn't affect his game, he batted exceptionally well and it further enhances his respect within the group.
"I don't think he can faulted for anything. No one knows how long I'm going to go on for but certainly Alastair is going to be one of the names on the list and will be much better for the experience he has had now."
The new Brit Insurance 2010-11 official England Cricket Team kit will be available to pre order from April 1 via ecb.co.uk, and in store from April 29