DUBAI // Andy Flower, the England coach, has backed Kevin Pietersen to reclaim his place among cricket's elite after his modest show in South Africa, where he returned from a four-month injury break. Pietersen, who missed the latter half of England's Ashes win last summer due to an Achilles injury, managed just 177 runs from the four Tests in South Africa despite scoring 40 and 81 in the first match. His patchy form had caused plenty of debate, but Flower tipped him to find his form again - starting in the Emirates this week.
"He had quite a chunk of time out of international cricket and he's come back hungry. Things didn't go well for him in South Africa, but he did make some contributions, especially at the start of the series," he said. "It was a difficult challenge for him to come back from playing cricket to face the South African attack on sporty wickets. "This is an opportunity for him to get some serious time in the middle and for him to start contributing again in his dominant way in England victories."
His first opportunity to reclaim his fearsome reputation will come tomorrow when England take on their Lions team in Abu Dhabi. On Friday and Saturday he will be the star attraction at Dubai Sports City when Paul Collingwood's men face Pakistan in two Twenty20 Internationals. From Dubai, England will fly to Bangladesh where they play two Tests and three one-day internationals. Alastair Cook will lead the team there as Andrew Strauss, the regular captain, is taking rest.
Talking about the immediate challenge against Pakistan, Flower suggested England's opponents would be stronger after their return from Australia, despite the whitewash there. "Every teams that returns from Australia, even after losing, has learned something new," he said. "Anyway, a team like Pakistan can never be underestimated. They are the T20 world champions and playing them is very important for our own World Twenty20 plans."
The World Twenty20 finals will be held in the West Indies in April and May, and Flower feels the two matches in Dubai will be an important part of their preparation. "These are big games, we have not been playing much T20, so these two matches will offer us a good idea about the squad," he said. @Email:email@example.com