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Strauss relishes Pietersen return

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen will not be available for England's two Twenty20 matches

England captain Andrew Strauss is relishing the prospect of a "hungry" Kevin Pietersen returning for the Test and one-day series in South Africa.

England's star batsman will join his team-mates next week after staying back to recuperate from the Achilles injury which has sidelined him since July.

He has been earmarked for a comeback on 17 November against South Africa A.

"I'm genuinely excited about having him back," said Strauss after England's first training session on Monday.

"We've missed his quality, we've missed his influence and I also think he's going to come back very refreshed, hungry and motivated.

"When you have a player of that quality with that frame of mind, you can expect him to go out and play really well.

"We don't want him to come back before he's ready, so he's got to make sure he's completely over his injury before we bring him back.

"But it's going to be a great boost for us to have him back in the environment."

Pietersen has not played since the second Ashes Test against Australia in mid-July after having surgery to correct a persistent Achilles problem.

The South African-born batsman suffered an infection that slowed down his recovery, but he batted for the first time in three months at a training session at Lord's on Friday and will fly out on 9 November.


England will have to make do without his explosive batting for the two Twenty20 internationals on 13 and 15 November but coach Andy Flower is expecting him to be available for selection for the first ODI on 20 November.

"He's a world-class player who has a special talent and a special confidence," Flower said on Friday. "He is a huge boon for us."

The England squad, minus Pietersen, touched down in Bloemfontein on Sunday at the start of a two-and-a-half month tour, which culminates in four Test matches against the world's number one side.

According to Strauss, England will need to play better than they did in wresting the Ashes from Australia this summer in order to triumph.

"[Winning the series] would be an incredible achievement -beating the number-one side in the world at home, that's as hard as it can get.

"But we're not going to get carried away with ourselves at this stage. There is a lot of hard work to be done if we want to get there and achieve that goal.

Andrew Strauss
Strauss says South Africa pose a tougher test than Australia

"If we're going to achieve that goal, we're going to have to play better than we've ever played in my time as an England player. So it's a bit of a step up for us and comes at a good time."

Strauss brushed off concerns about hostility from fans towards himself, Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior, all of whom were born in South Africa.

Pietersen was given a hard time by spectators on his last visit to his native country in an England shirt.

"I think it's only an issue if you let it affect you," said Strauss. "I've been here before, Kevin Pietersen's been here before, so it's not something that will affect us.

"For Jonathan Trott it's a bit of a step into the unknown, but he's showed great ability to deal with the pressure that goes with playing in a must-win Ashes Test match, so he's more than capable of dealing with it.

"From our team's point of view it's just a non-issue and not something that we ever talk about."

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see also
Pietersen expects less SA abuse
09 Oct 09 |  England
England omit Harmison for SA tour
08 Oct 09 |  England
Pietersen hit by injury setback
11 Aug 09 |  England
Pietersen denied return from tour
29 Mar 09 |  England
Pietersen insists he is blameless
11 Jan 09 |  England
Kevin Pietersen career photos
08 Jan 09 |  Cricket
England claim historic series win
25 Jan 05 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
England in South Africa 2009-10
17 Jan 10 |  England

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