England are in another race against time and more anguished reflection to try to salvage Kevin Pietersen's international career. After dropping him for the decisive third Test against South Africa, which begins at Lord's on Thursday, the management must decide whether to include him in the squad for the defence of the World Twenty20 title next month.
Although his selection seems unlikely for the party, which has to be named by Saturday, Pietersen could be crucial to their chances in Sri Lanka as he was when they became champions in the Caribbean two years ago. To stand any chance of being picked, Pietersen will have to come clean about the text messages he sent to South Africa players around the second Test at Headingley, which were derogatory about the England captain, Andrew Strauss, and coach, Andy Flower.
It was Pietersen's refusal to make a public statement about the messages – either refuting their existence or apologising for them – which led to his omission from the match at Lord's, which England must win to level the series and retain their status as the world's No 1 Test team.
South Africa may or may not have helped Pietersen's cause yesterday by distancing themselves from the furore and belittling the significance of the texts. The team manager, Dr Mohammad Moosajee, said there had been untruthful allegations in the media implicating squad members.
"We stand by the same stance we have taken since we heard the news about these allegations," he said. "Yes, text messages were sent but, like we said before, it was banter among team-mates, which is acceptable.
"The ECB has not made a formal approach to myself or any member of the team to see the text messages. Allegations that Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers were the recipients of the texts are unfounded. Until such time that the allegations are met with the correct facts and evidence, we shall not comment."
Reports about the texts were first published in a South African paper but given further credence in England last week. Rumours about their content have been circulating for days, without any conclusive proof that Pietersen derided Flower's controlling influence in the dressing room and disparaged Strauss while suggesting how to get him out.
Pietersen was not included in the original 30 names submitted to the International Cricket Council for the World T20 but then he was still retired from limited-overs cricket. In a video released on Saturday, designed to win public support, he made himself available for England in all forms of the game.
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