Kevin Pietersen: Andrew Strauss tells KP he will not play for England again despite scoring career-best 326 not out for Surrey

It was always going to be a major surprise for Strauss to agree to KP's return

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen has been told he will not play for England again after meeting new England director of cricket Andrew Strauss to discover whether his career-best 326 not out on Monday was enough for a Test recall.

The South Africa-born former England captain confirmed the meeting with Strauss, as well as Tom Harrison, the new chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, following his unbeaten 326 for Surrey against Leicestershire – an extraordinary performance.

“There is a meeting this evening and it’s a totally private matter,” Pietersen said, refusing to speculate on any possible outcome.

However, Piers Morgan, his close friend and loudest cheerleader, quickly speculated that Pietersen was about to be told to forget his dream of playing for England in another Ashes series. Tweeting shortly after Pietersen left the field to a standing ovation, Morgan said: “I can now reveal that Andrew Strauss and Tom Harrison asked to see KP tonight. I believe to tell him he wouldn’t play for England again.”

 

And that proved to be case even though Pietersen, who eclipsed his previous best score of 254 by 72 runs after hitting 34 fours and 14 sixes – “the most incredible innings from KP ever seen,” according to Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart – believed he made a powerful case for his recall and acknowledged that with new men in the top jobs at Lord’s and a new coach to be appointed, he could not have chosen a better moment to deliver such an emphatic statement.

 

“They say timing is everything,” he said. “He [Strauss] has come in, there’s a new chairman [Colin Graves] on Friday or Saturday, there has to be a new coach, [Peter] Moores has gone.

“I’ve got to be careful what I say; it’s an interesting time, and what more can I do? I was told to go and get a county, I was told to score runs... I think I’m scoring runs.

“I’ve always said since my knee was sorted in Australia, after that first training session in Australia, I said that my knee’s good, and if my knee’s good, I’m going to play well.

“I played well in the Big Bash, I gave up a contract in India, I’m not playing for any money here – I’m dedicated to getting back my England place. I want my England place, and I think I deserve my England place.”

Kevin-Pietersen.jpgNonetheless, it was always going to be a major surprise for Strauss to agree to KP’s return. His former batting partner and successor as Test captain, Alastair Cook, was firmly behind the decision to sack Pietersen following the Ashes whitewash in Australia two winters ago, and was furious when incoming ECB chairman Graves hinted in March that the door was not closed on a Pietersen return if he made enough runs in county cricket.

Yet after finally disappointing the most talented cricketer of his generation, Strauss risks another PR disaster just days after the shabby dismissal of Moores, whose second sacking as England coach – his first came alongside Pietersen’s removal  as captain in early 2009 –  was widely leaked the day before it was officially announced. Now he is in danger of being accused of letting his own personal differences with the player cloud his judgment.

The “textgate” affair during the 2012 Test series against South Africa created a rift between the pair that Pietersen tried to repair with an apology but which was reopened when, in his biography published last autumn, Pietersen held Strauss responsible for allowing a bullying culture to develop in the England team.

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Pietersen says he will 'do anything' to get back into the England team

Strauss, meanwhile, had made his feelings toward Pietersen unequivocally clear when, working as a television pundit, he was caught off microphone during the  MCC v Rest of the World match at Lord’s last July describing Pietersen as a “c**t”.

He could have pulled a surprise and offered Pietersen a way back, although sources claimed that Strauss and his fellow candidates for the new role, which will include ultimate responsibility for team selection, were told by the ECB that they would not be able to pick Pietersen in any circumstances.  

Pietersen would have, in any case, undermined his own position somewhat if, as expected, he misses the next two weeks of Championship cricket to fulfil his contractual to play for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the knockout stage of the Indian Premier League, ruling himself out of the first Test against New Zealand on 21 May.

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Strauss will hold a press conference later today

That may have given the new hierarchy all the excuse they needed to confirm his exclusion.

“All I’ve been asked to do by the chairman-elect [Graves] is to get a county and get runs,” Pietersen added at The Oval yesterday. “I’ve got runs, I’ve got a county and I do believe I’m good enough to play for England. All I can do is score runs – that’s it.

“The pressure I was under this morning, that’s one of the best innings I’ve ever played – purely because I knew that [on Tuesday] there’s a  press conference, and I knew that there were things  happening this evening,”  he said.

“So I knew that I needed to basically answer any questions with runs on the deck. And goodness, 326 is a pretty good argument.”

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