Australia Test captain Michael Clarke says he expects exiled England batsman Kevin Pietersen to feature in this winter’s Ashes – but hopes he doesn’t.
Pietersen was axed by the England and Wales Cricket Board following the 5-0 Ashes whitewash in 2013-14, but will make his county cricket return for Surrey this weekend in a bid to return for his adopted county.
The 34-year-old negotiated his way out of his IPL contract to return to Surrey and scored 170 against Oxford in the county’s final warm-up game, showing glimpses of the form that propelled him to become England’s all-time leading run-scorer.
“Yeah, I do think he could be at the Ashes,” Clarke said when asked whether his Ashes rival and new Melbourne Stars teammate could line up for England this winter.
“He’s scoring enough runs, he’s made it very clear he wants to play and now it will come down to England selectors and the England board making their decision.
“At the moment from the Australians’ perspective I’m happy he’s not playing because he’s a wonderful player.”
Pietersen on the drive against Oxford // Getty Images
Pietersen’s international career looked dead in the water when he was banished by the ECB and the release of his autobiography KP appeared to burn bridges with current members of the England set-up.
But incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves, who takes charge next month, opened the door for Pietersen, suggesting a mountain of domestic runs couldn’t be ignored.
"I've been given a lifeline," Pietersen said following his century against Oxford last week.
"I really, really like the way that the new bosses are talking, from stuff that you read and stuff that you hear.
"All I've got to do is score runs.
"That's what was asked of me today and I've delivered.
"I just want England winning. I've not been happy over the last 14 months because England keep losing. It's not nice."
Clarke with his famous No.23 jersey // Getty Images
Clarke signed a deal to lead the Stars for the next two seasons today, saying he’s looking forward to playing with the controversial batsman instead of battling him in Ashes contests.
“It’s going nice to be on the same side as him,” Clarke said.
“I’ve always got on really well with KP. He’s a wonderful player.
“He’s been great for the Melbourne Stars. To have that luxury as captain, to have a player like that in your team is extremely exciting and he’ll play a big part in us having success in this next BBL.”