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London – After three months out with a knee injury, Kevin Pietersen is finally back on the cricket pitch as he looks to prove his fitness ahead of the Ashes series.
The South African-born batsman was selected by Surrey for its four-day English County Championship match against Yorkshire at Headingley starting on Thursday, his first competitive appearance since flying home early from England's tour of New Zealand in March with a right knee problem.
If he comes through the game, Pietersen is scheduled to play for England in the second of its two-match Twenty20 series against New Zealand at The Oval on Thursday, and then also in an Ashes warm-up match against Essex before the first test at Trent Bridge, starting on July 10.
“We thought it would be good to get some international exposure, just get back into the international swing of things and to just get a lot of the nonsense back out into the air - that I'm back playing. Blah, blah, blah,” said Pietersen, England's most brilliant, headline-grabbing player.
“And it's a perfect opportunity at The Oval and it'll just be nice to get back out there and whack a few balls - if I do whack a few - run around on the field, just get that buzz again. So I'm very happy.”
The emergence of Joe Root in England's batting department meant Pietersen wasn't seriously missed for the 2-0 test series win over New Zealand last month, but his class and experience could prove vital for the Ashes.
Pietersen's record against Australia is superb, scoring three centuries and eight 50s to average more than 52 in three Ashes-winning series. But he almost missed the chance to make it four by playing with his knee injury on the tour of New Zealand, exacerbating the problem.
“It was really bad. In New Zealand, I couldn't duck a bouncer, I couldn't sweep - I was in all sorts of trouble,” Pietersen told English radio station talkSPORT, in what he says will be his only interview of the summer. “I was on the strongest painkillers and eventually my stomach just gave up with me in the second test match.
“I probably did it a lot of damage by playing, but I just tried to get through and played for as long as I could because I hate missing test matches.”
With Surrey winning the toss and choosing to field first, Pietersen is unlikely to get any batting practice until Saturday. – Sapa-AP