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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pietersen blow hands some initiative back to Aussies

It was perhaps not surprising after seeing him limp around the field at Lord’s last weekend that Kevin Pietersen has finally succumbed to the achilles injury that has dogged him since the start of the year.

The arguments about his fitness will no doubt rumble on over the summer; after all it was first diagnosed during the winter tour of the West Indies and could have been cured there and then. But despite being centrally contracted to England he went off to South Africa to play in the IPL carrying the knock. In what I expect to become the norm in the near future test cricket has now lost out to 20/20 with Pietersen unable to play through the pain barrier any longer. England will now hope their other talisman, Andrew Flintoff, will be wrapped up in cotton wool ready for Edgbaston next week.

The obvious replacement for Pietersen is Ian Bell who has been in good nick with his county Warwickshire so far this year. But he still has a question mark over his ability to perform at the highest level. His average in Ashes tests is only 25, and he has often been found vulnerable to Australia’s sledging tactics out in the middle.

But the Aussie attack, while dangerous, is not as formidable as it once was and if Bell is in good nick he may look to grab this chance with both hands.

Australia will take a boost from Pietersen’s enforced absence. It puts a dampener on England’s celebrations after the Lord’s test and shifts the momentum slightly as there is no question England’s batting line-up will be weaker without the enigmatic South African. That said he was clearly half fit in the first two tests and didn’t perform to his best in either of them, so England will argue they will be stronger in the remaining games as they will be playing with 11 men rather than 10 ½.
I suppose it will just give both sides another excuse to exchange mind game tactics ahead of the hotly anticipated third test at Edgbaston next week.

In the meantime, keep a close eye on the Third Test odds before placing your Edgbaston test bet and, if you need to get in the mood for rivalry, check out Betfair's fan v fan site.

By Tom Mallows

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