x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

England batsman Kevin Pietersen is back in the pack

Cricketer will return to action for England if he can prove fitness following three-month injury lay-off.

Kevin Pietersen in training.
Kevin Pietersen in training.

Kevin Pietersen is set to make a surprise return to England duty in the second of next week's two Twenty20 matches against New Zealand at the Oval.

Pietersen, who has been out of cricket with a knee injury since March, is first expected to make his comeback for Surrey against Yorkshire at Headingley in an English County Championship match which starts today.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board also announced yesterday that the mercurial batsman is part of a 14-man squad to face the Kiwis under the captaincy of Eoin Morgan.

England's regular Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad is, as expected, rested from the short series - along with the majority of the likely first-choice squad for this summer's Ashes, which begins on July 10.

It was anticipated Pietersen would have just two matches, Surrey's County Championship fixture in Leeds and then England's four-day Ashes warm-up at Essex starting a week on Sunday, to prove his fitness in time to face Australia.

But England have chosen to also schedule the second match against New Zealand, next Thursday, as an extra opportunity to assess their most talented batsman's well-being.

Pietersen, who averages nearly 50 in test cricket, has been practising in the nets at Surrey. His latest session was conducted alongside former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who is playing for the southern county this season.

"Todays net was possibly one of the best I've ever had..," Pietersen said on Twitter. "The GREAT Ricky Ponting giving me throw downs. He wants me in form for Ashes! Oops!"

Pietersen will join two as yet uncapped players - Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance and pace bowler Boyd Rankin - in the reckoning to face the Kiwis.

Morgan has previously led England's Twenty20 team, in Broad's absence when the seamer was injured for two matches against India shortly before last Christmas.

National selector Geoff Miller, said: "We have selected a squad with plenty of Twenty20 experience, as well as young players new to the international game.

"With an intense period of cricket, we are conscious that we need to manage the workloads of our players throughout the summer - and this series gives an opportunity for players who have performed well in domestic cricket and on the England performance programme and with the Lions to step up and test themselves in an international environment.."

Meanwhile, New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori has had an operation on his left Achilles tendon. The left-armer, 34, returned from almost a year out of the international picture to play in all three of the Black Caps' group games at the Champions Trophy.

But he often looked uncomfortable while fielding and batted only once - even dropping down to No 10 in the order against England - and went for surgery in London yesterday.

Physio Paul Close said: "Dan has been suffering from this injury for the past year and surgery was the only option to prolong his career with the Black Caps."

Injuries also rule Grant Elliott and Tim Southee out of the two Twenty20 matches against England, while Kane Williamson and Luke Ronchi have also left the squad. Test opener Hamish Rutherford returns along with fellow batsman Tom Latham and spinner Ronnie Hira.

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