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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 13:56 GMT
Pietersen presents Test conundrum
By Rob Hodgetts

Kevin Pietersen with his individual Match and Series trophies in South Africa

Andrew Flintoff wants it, Mike Atherton is keen for it and Kevin Pietersen's dreaming of it.

But if the swashbuckling South African-born Pietersen is to make his England Test debut this summer, how would he fit into a winning team?

His prolific scoring in the face of hostile South African crowds has sparked a surge of support for his inclusion to face the Australians.

Pietersen, 24, was crowned man of the one-day series after smashing 454 runs at an average of 151, including three centuries.

England's hard-hitting talisman Flintoff, who missed the 4-1 series defeat for ankle surgery, sent Pietersen a text message saying he is looking forward to "doing some damage together".

But former England captain Mike Gatting admitted that Pietersen's inclusion would constitute a major reshuffle of an already successful batting line-up.

Openers Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss look safe, while skipper Michael Vaughan is immovable and the experienced Graham Thorpe seems set for a final Ashes fling.

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen averaged 151 runs in the one-day series against South Africa

Flintoff is also guaranteed a berth in the middle-order if he is fit.

"If they put Pietersen in they would have to change the order dramatically," Gatting told BBC Sport.

"I can only see him [Pietersen] batting at five or six, and therefore I would suggest Thorpe would have to go to four, with Vaughan at three. That's the only way I can see them getting him in."

Thorpe, who will be 36 before the second Test against Australia, had a moderate Test series in South Africa, but still managed an unbeaten 118 in Durban and a vital 86 in the final Test.

According to Gatting, his place becomes even more assured if England choose to overlook Mark Butcher, who missed the last three Tests in South Africa with a sprained left wrist.

"If they're not going to play Butcher, you need somebody in the middle-order to hold it all together and with his [Thorpe's] experience he should be able to do to that," said Gatting, the last England captain to win the Ashes in 1987.

Butcher's replacement at number three in South Africa, Robert Key, averaged only 25.5 but is capable of big scores, as shown by his 221 against West Indies last summer.

But Warwickshire's Ian Bell, who made 70 against the Windies on his one and only Test appearance, is also waiting in the wings.

And despite his one-day heroics, Pietersen may find himself merely part of the Test equation rather than the solution.

England coach Duncan Fletcher said: "We'll have to sit down and think about the selection and give it a lot of thought.

"For an individual like that, to bat like that was outstanding. You can't ignore him.

"You just think how he took on the South African crowd, he took on everyone. He just seems to thrive on that, and that's a big plus.

"This is a boy who likes a contest, and with the Australians coming, it's pleasing to see there's someone who likes to take people on."

Whether the selectors are willing to display a similar cavalier style and pick Pietersen remains to be seen.


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Interview: England batsman Kevin Pietersen



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