x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

South Africa keen to avoid Pietersen distractions ahead of third England Test

Proteas coach Gary Kirsten insists his players will not change their style despite the controversial replacement of Pietersen with Jonny Bairstow for the Lord's showdown.

England's Kevin Pietersen during the first test against South Africa.
England's Kevin Pietersen during the first test against South Africa.

Gary Kirsten insists South Africa will not be distracted by England's Kevin Pietersen row in their bid to become the world's number one Test side.

Pietersen has been axed by England for this week's third Test after failing to reveal the contents of text messages sent to the Proteas players during the drawn match at Headingley.

England wanted Pietersen to either confirm publicly that he not sent derogatory texts about his teammates or apologise for doing so - but neither happened.

In a prepared statement, South Africa's team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee dismissed the messages as "banter" and confirmed England officials had made no formal request to read the texts.

Moosajee refused to take questions on the saga saying: "We don't want to get ourselves involved in an issue that has nothing to do with us."

South Africa head to Lord's with a 1-0 in lead the three-Test series, knowing a draw would be enough to knock England off their perch.

"Way back in August last year we put a peg in the ground and said we wanted to become the best cricket team in the world in all forms of the game," Kirsten said.

"Some people say we are not sure about the rankings, does it hold any water? But deep down every team aspires to it. They like to know they are number one in those rankings.

"We certainly take it with importance."

Kirsten said England's decision to include the inexperienced Jonny Bairstow ahead of Pietersen, who scored a brilliant 149 in the Headingley Test, would not change South Africa's approach.

"We will focus on our preparation and the work that we do. We always respect the opposition," Kirsten said.

"We understand we are playing against quality opposition. We will never underestimate any team, we will never go into any Test match complacent and arrive thinking the job is done.

"We will do the preparation necessary to look at the opposition and what they have got in their team and how we can exploit certain areas.

"We don't focus heavily on individuals, we look at their team make-up and we look at ways we can exploit. It is no different to what we would do in a normal Test match."

Although the tourists only need a draw at Lord's, Kirsten indicated they will be going out to seal the series with a victory.

"We like to believe if we get our stuff right and we get our preparation right and we execute in the right way, we are a difficult team to beat," he said.

"We need to be humble every hour of the Test match to make sure we set a strong foundation to give us a good chance of getting the success we want in the Test match.

"We will go out there and play our brand of aggressive cricket because we believe that is key to our success."

The Lord's outfield has been scarred by the recent Olympic archery tournament that was held at the home of cricket, with large sections of the turf having been relaid.

"If you want to be the best cricket team in the world you have to adapt to all conditions," Kirsten said.

"Whatever is out there we have got to deal with, we have got to handle it. No excuses."

Meanwhile the man behind a spoof Kevin Pietersen Twitter account has apologised for his social networking parody.

Richard Bailey counts England internationals Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad, former England captain Michael Vaughan, and promising duo Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler as his followers on the site.

He claims to be behind the spoof KP Genius account, which was closed down after the England batsman was perturbed some of his teammates followed it.

"It was for humour purposes only and as soon as I realised it was upsetting people I took it down," he said.

"I apologise if I upset anyone. It's not the business I'm in. I would also like to apologise to anyone I know involved with England Cricket who I may have put in an awkward or embarrassing position.

"At the end of the day I'm an England Cricket fan. When I saw it was potentially causing harm & upsetting folk, I shut it down."