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England's Jonny Bairstow practices in the nets ahead of the final Test against New Zealand.
England's Jonny Bairstow practices in the nets ahead of the final Test against New Zealand.

England confirm Jonny Bairstow to replace injured Kevin Pietersen for final New Zealand Test

The 23-year-old will once again replace Pietersen in the England line-up for the decisive Test at Eden Park.

Jonny Bairstow will replace the injured Kevin Pietersen in the final Test against New Zealand at Eden Park.

England must go into the series decider tomorrow without Pietersen, who is to fly home tonight because of an injury in his right knee from which he will take at least six to eight weeks to recover.

And Alastair Cook, the England captain, has confirmed that the 23-year-old will take Pietersen's place in the England line-up for the decisive game in Wellington tomorrow.

"Obviously, it's a blow when you lose one of your senior batters and a guy who's performed consistently well for us over a number of years," he said.

"He's a great player, and will be missed.

"But it gives an opportunity to Jonny Bairstow coming in."

Bairstow deputised to significant effect for Pietersen against South Africa at Lord's last August, when the South Africa-born batsman was in the middle of a dispute with employers and teammates.

But he lost his place in the team back to Pietersen for the tour of India, and has not played a Test since November in Mumbai.

Cook added: "He's probably been a little unlucky not to be selected earlier, through circumstance this winter.

"So he has a great opportunity to try to end this winter well."

Bairstow has been an ever-present in England's 2012/13 touring squads, save for the one-day international series in India when he was absent because of a family illness.

But he has played precious little, most recently in England's series-clinching Twenty20 victory over the Kiwis in Wellington last month.

His inclusion will give the Yorkshireman a chance to press his claims as first-choice batsman ahead of a summer in which England play New Zealand again, host a Champions Trophy and then face Australia in the first of two back-to-back Ashes series.

"In an ideal situation, you'd like a little bit more match practice behind you," Cook said.

"But you can't choose sometimes, and I know he's just very excited about being given the opportunity - and he won't be looking at that as a negative.

"He can go out there very fresh, and raring to go.

"He's desperately keen to be involved. He's been on all the winter tours.

"He only got one knock in the Tests in India. Coming back after playing really well against South Africa at Lord's, to then miss out because of the balance of the team was probably a tough call to make."

Their opponents have to decide whether to accommodate Doug Bracewell, after just one comeback match for Central Districts yesterday as he seeks to prove he has recovered from his foot injury.

The seamer was not at New Zealand practice today, but was expected to fly in to join his prospective teammates tonight.

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