DURBAN // Andy Flower is saddened every time he hears Kevin Pietersen booed as he walks to the crease to bat for England in his native South Africa. Pietersen, still searching for a first big score since his return to the team after four months out with an Achilles injury, has received a hostile reception from the crowd at each venue in the ongoing one-day international series. It was especially notable yesterday at Port Elizabeth, where England won by seven wickets to go 2-1 up with one match to play.
That final fixture is set to take place on Friday at Kingsmead, once Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen's home ground - where a significant contribution from him would be fitting. Captain Andrew Strauss insists that the booing of Pietersen is of no concern to England. But coach Flower appears to have a different view. "I think it's really disappointing to hear booing of a great cricketer walking out to compete for his country," he said.
"I think that's sad. I didn't like hearing boos when (Ricky) Ponting walked out to bat (in last summer's Ashes); I don't like hearing them when someone's taking a conversion in rugby." Asked what may be the reason Pietersen is getting all the rough treatment - while the home crowds show little interest in booing England's other South Africa-born players, such as Jonathan Trott - Flower suggests: "I think there's a bit of the pantomime villain scenario."
Either way, though, he does not see the heckling getting to England's No 3. "I think he's used to that sort of reaction. I really don't think it affects him," he said. "He's working very hard, and I'm sure he will score heavy runs at some stage of this tour." * PA Sport