Miller: 'That wasn't the KP we know out there'
England and Edgbaston seem to suit each other like cheese and onion, or Hobbs and Sutcliffe. The notable victories there in the past three decades, not least the nerve-shredding two-run defeat of Australia four years ago, and the patriotic fervour lend it an atmosphere witnessed at no other English ground.
"I know we have a good record there and that we like playing there and they're good things, of course," said the chairman of selectors, Geoff Miller. "But I would point out that Australia liked playing at Lord's, had a fine record there and we went and won. So we won't be depending on that."
In keeping with everyone else associated with England, from bottle-washer (and there will almost certainly be a bottle-washer among the back-room staff) up, Miller is adopting the wary approach to the 1-0 lead the side took so rousingly last Monday.
"After what happened at Cardiff when we did so well to fight back for a draw in the last few overs, that was a terrific performance," said Miller. "It showed that this team has character. We played some very good Test cricket and deserved to win. But the job is a long way off being complete."
Miller confirmed that the squad he announces this morning for the Third Test which begins on Thursday is likely to contain the familiar names of the summer. Ian Bell will play in place of Kevin Pietersen, who will miss the rest of the series after surgery on his Achilles injury.
"Of course we will miss Kevin, anybody would, but we have a strong squad and we just have to get on with it," said Miller. "He wasn't playing like he can and does play, that wasn't the KP we know out there. He was struggling, so this is the right thing for him and the team."
England issued a rather irate denial yesterday about claims that Pietersen had aggravated his injury by running along a beach against advice while he was in South Africa playing in the Indian Premier League in April. The statement said that Pietersen had received no advice not to run and reasonably pointed out that nobody followed training guidelines better or prepared more thoroughly. The mood generally is that if the IPL can be blamed for something, it ought to be.
Bell will replace Pietersen in the team unless the selectors repeat the rabbit-out-of-hat trick they pulled last summer when the unknown Darren Pattinson was chosen for a Test match at Headingley. Miller said: "Ian Bell has experience and has played well for England. When we left him out of the side I said he had to rediscover his passion and determination for playing for England.
"Well I was wrong to use the word 'passion' because he has always been passionate but I would say he has become determined again. He has gone back to county cricket and has made runs and I am sure he can do the job for England again."
Of the 12 Tests between England and Australia at Edgbaston the home side have won five and lost three, and overall no ground at home (except Chester-le-Street, where they have won all four matches against inadequate opposition) has been kinder to them. They have won more than half the time. Until last year when South Africa achieved a wonderful, series-clinching victory on the fourth evening, the only successful touring teams at the ground had been Australia and West Indies.
There are still some tickets available for the fourth day but that position will not pertain if the match gets off to a ripping start on Thursday. It is the fancy dress capital of English Test grounds and if that is a dubious title, it still knocks spots off the boorish cross-dressing football supporters likely to be in attendance at Headingley the following week.
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