Kevin Pietersen has risked further damaging his relationship with England after it emerged he sent SMSes to members of the South Africa team during the Headingley Test.

News of his fraternisation with the tourists will infuriate coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss as they attempt to avoid yet more distractions ahead of next week’s third Test at Lord’s.

The messages – reportedly sent to fast bowler Dale Steyn and wicketkeeper AB de Villiers – contained “less than flattering comments” about Strauss and his team-mates.

England must win the Test that starts on Thursday if they are to maintain their position at the top of the world rankings.

South Africa’s manager Mohammed Moosajee attempted to play down the matter, saying: “I can confirm that text messages were sent but they contained friendly banter between guys who have played with each other in the past.”

Steyn is a former team-mate of Pietersen at Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, while De Villiers has played for Delhi Daredevils, Pietersen’s current IPL side.

Both men are said to be embarrassed that Pietersen – who has complained of dressingroom “politics” and warned he could quit international cricket after the Lord’s Test – made contact with them during a game England needed to win to keep alive hopes of victory in the three-match series.

The SMSes followed an incident on the opening morning of the Headingley Test, when Pietersen upset team-mates by mingling with the South Africa players as both sides warmed up on the outfield before play.

The ECB declined to comment. – Daily Mail