It’s exactly 30 days until England and Australian take to Brisbane’s Gabba strip for the first Test of the Ashes series and England coach Andy Flower already has his best side in mind.
Flower insists that there is still time for the players on the fringes of the team to change the coach’s mind, but after publicly praising Kevin Pietersen on Monday, it seems Pietersen’s poor form will not keep him out of the Test team.
“I expect great things from Kevin,” said Flower, “this is a great stage on which to do it, and he is an exceptional player – I expect him to be a standout on this tour.”
For a man that is without an international Test century in eight months, who suffered a terrible summer when he was dropped from his domestic side Hampshire and the England one day team, Pietersen has a lot to do to back up Flower’s comments.
Pietersen is 4/1 to be England’s top series runscorer in the Ashes series and in a squad which has 10 Australian bound novices, his role in the Ashes is more important than any other Test series he’s played in.
The South African born batsman has plenty of pedigree against Australia, averaging 50.72 on the 24 times he’s faced the Australian attack, and there’s no doubt that a prepared Pietersen is key to an England win.
However it remains to be seen if Pietersen is mentally ready to recapture his best form and Andy Flower will be scrutinising Pietersen’s performances in the warm-up games.
As a man that holds England’s best chances of a victory down under in his hands, Flower is without pressure himself and he will need to utilise Pietersen to the best of his ability if England are to claim a series win which they are 2/1 to do so.
Australia are 10/11 to win the Ashes. See the full The Ashes betting odds here.