x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pietersen leaves buoyant England in good hands

England will be looking to prove there is life beyond Kevin Pietersen when they meet New Zealand tonight in St Lucia.

Pietersen hopes to return for England's semi-final match if they make it that far.
Pietersen hopes to return for England's semi-final match if they make it that far.

England will be looking to prove there is life beyond Kevin Pietersen when they meet New Zealand tonight in St Lucia. Pietersen has flown home for the birth of his first child after his latest match-winning knocks virtually assured England a place in the semi-finals with victories over Pakistan and South Africa. The equation, however, could change if South Africa beat Pakistan and England lose to New Zealand. That would bring run-rates into the equation with three teams on four points.

Pietersen, however, has few doubts about England's chances of progressing the last-four and hopes to be back in time for the semi-finals - should everything go right and his child shows the same gift of timing as dad. "It's my first child so it's a hell of an exciting time for me," said Pietersen in a TV interview after sinking South Africa with a 33-ball blitz. "I'm flying back to London in the next 24 hours and hoping everything goes well and according to plan, there's no complications. If we get through to the semi-finals, I'll come in the day before the semi-finals."

Paul Collingwood, the captain, meanwhile, credited his team's run of wins to Pietersen. "The contributions he's made in the last two games - two man-of-the-matches - have been fantastic," he said. "His contributions have certainly gone a long way towards getting us into the semi-finals." South Africa are left with the task of beating Pakistan on the slower pitches of St Lucia, where their pace battery will not be of much help.

"The players are there, it is just about getting it together again," Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, was quoted as saying on Cricinfo. "It is about us regrouping mentally, making sure that we work out what went wrong and try and put it right against Pakistan." Pakistan are virtually out of the race, but should they beat South Africa, Shahid Afridi and his troops will be cheering on England and hoping for a heavy New Zealand defeat. That would open the door for them as it would leave three teams on two points.

* Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi Pakistan v South Africa, 5.30pm and England v New Zealand, 9.30pm, both on CricOne