May 22 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, August 16, 2012
England prepare for must-win match against South Africa at Lord’s
Andrew Strauss is set to begin the must-win Lord’s Test this morning, convinced England’s prospects will not be compromised by the Kevin Pietersen controversy.
England must focus their minds on a mission improbable, to offset the established momentum of the Investec series by beating South Africa in the final Test of three.
The prize would be a 1-1 draw and continuation as the world number one Test team, a mantle South Africa will take if they can achieve at least a stalemate at HQ.
For England, the absence of Surrey star Pietersen’s world-class batting is an obvious handicap - not to mention the aggravation caused by his omission for declining, initially, to apologise to his employers for “provocative” texts he has admitted sending to opposition players during the drawn Headingley Test.
Middelsex batsman Strauss was still dealing with the fall-out at his captain’s press conference yesterday, when he would doubtless have preferred to be answering questions exclusively about the chances of him marking his 100th Test - and 50th as captain - with a famous win.
He vowed, however, to set all those potential distractions aside - and added, for good measure, that anyone who thinks the Pietersen saga might have had a negative impact on England’s chances is mistaken.
“People might say that - I would say those people are misinformed, or particularly pessimistic,” he said.
“I sensed with the players when we met up on Monday night that they were very relieved that the situation had been dealt with and that they were particularly keen to get on with preparing for a Test match and not having to worry about these distractions.”
Pietersen will not now be named in England’s final 15-man squad on Saturday, for the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown in Sri Lanka.
His hopes of a return to play for England in all three formats, in the more medium term, will be decided at a later date - following negotiations which, as far as Strauss is concerned, will take place after the end of this Test at least.
“In the last week, there’s been a lot of stuff flying around, a lot of new developments on a day-by-day basis, and it’s very hard for the players to not be involved in that in some way,” he said.
“Once the decision’s been made, it’s been a bit more easy for the players to concentrate on the game at hand.
“I also think good dressing rooms, good sides can draw strength from adversity, and I’m certainly expecting them to do that this week.
“But at this stage that’s not something that I can afford to be thinking about in too great a detail.
“I’m sure that people in the ECB will be trying to think what the way forward is over the next few days.”
Strauss’ opposite number Graeme Smith was at pains yesterday to stress his team were in no way compliant in putting Pietersen’s texts in the public domain.
“I think the notion that we have tried to ‘nail’ Kevin or put things out in the media is just ridiculous,” he said.
“I have never heard such a load of rubbish.”