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While the South African camp sought to step back from the controversy surrounding Kevin Pietersen and text messages he sent to players in their camp, England’s selectors made a decisive move that may yet have far reaching ramifications for Pietersen’s career by dropping him from the squad for the final Test.
In a dramatic week since the end of the Headingley Test, where Pietersen starred with bat and ball, the text messages he sent to a few of the South Africans have caused such strife that despite announcing on Saturday night, in an interview posted on YouTube, that he was now available for all three formats for England once more, Geoff Miller and his selection panel have dropped him for the Lord’s Test.
The South African team’s manager, Dr Mohammed Moosajee, said he was “amused” at how everything was unfolding since news first emerged last week about Pietersen’s telephone skills.
“It was banter, yes there were text messages, but these players have relationships from the IPL, but some of what’s being reported is totally incorrect. We don’t want to be drawn into it, it’s not our issue at all,” said Moosajee.
He said reports that texts contained derogatory statements about England’s coach Andy Flower and skipper Andrew Strauss were way off the mark and also denied that AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn were the recipients of the messages.
Nevertheless the ECB yesterday delayed naming the squad for the final Test by six hours to allow Pietersen the opportunity to explain the text messages and apologise to Flower and Strauss – and he did not do so, according to the ECB’s managing director Hugh Morris.
“The success of the England team has been built on a unity of purpose and trust. Whilst we have made every attempt to find a solution to enable Kevin to be selected we have sadly had to conclude that, in the best interest of the team, he will miss the Lord’s Test,” said Morris.
Miller said the squad needed to be fully focused on winning to draw the series so that England could remain at No1 in the Test rankings.
“The second Test was a marked improvement on our performance at the start of the series but we are aware we will need to play some very good cricket this week if we are to level this series,” said Miller.
England’s improvement at Headingley was mostly down to Pietersen, whose breathtaking 149 in their first innings has been widely described as one of the best knocks by an English player. Throw in the fact that he also picked up four wickets – after Graeme Swann was dropped – and the depth of fissure he’s caused becomes clearer still.
It is believed that the England bowlers were very unhappy with his reference about the South African attack being “fighters”.
Pietersen attempted on Saturday night to provide clarity about his future in a staged interview which he linked to on his Twitter feed.
He acknowledged he made mistakes and that the mood in the England dressing-room after the Headingley Test wasn’t good. “I had a really, really, really long chat to a teammate of mine, we went through loads of different things, I actually came away from that conversation a very happy bloke and someone who can’t wait to meet up with the team,” said Pietersen. His place in the team will be taken by Jonny Bairstow.
Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, James Taylor, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Graham Onions. – The Star