Nottinghamshire find an unlikely friend in Pietersen

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The Independent Online

Nottinghamshire cannot pretend they were not glad to see the back of Kevin Pietersen when he left them for Hampshire during the winter. How ironic, then, that they will be thanking him for putting bums on seats they feared would be empty when England face Bangladesh at Trent Bridge today, a game in which spin bowler Ashley Giles is ready to return after injury.

Interest in today's NatWest Series tie was expected to be modest, particularly after the embarrassingly one-sided nature of England's 10-wicket victory at Lord's last week. Advance ticket sales suggested the 15,000-capacity ground would be little more than half full.

But Pietersen, whose relationship with Nottinghamshire descended at times into open hostility before his departure after three seasons, sparked a surge of ticket sales following his match-winning performance in Sunday's victory over Australia.

"We had sold 8,000 tickets, which we considered to be excellent bearing in mind that many people expected the result to be a formality," said the commercial director at Trent Bridge, Lisa Pursehouse.

"But with Bangladesh causing a major upset by beating Australia on Saturday and then Kevin Pietersen's sensational innings on Sunday, it has generated a tremendous amount of interest."

Pietersen's 91 off 65 balls has increased the clamour for England to fast-track the South Africa-born player into their plans for the Ashes Tests. But the chairman of selectors, David Graveney, last night maintained a defensive guard over the issue.

"It's a question I can't answer," Graveney said when asked whether Pietersen was making himself impossible to overlook for the opening Test against Australia on 21 July. "All Kevin can do is carry on playing the way he has been doing, which is brilliant, and we'll cross the bridge when we have to."

Pietersen's team-mates were massively impressed. "It was probably the best individual innings chasing that I've ever seen," Steve Harmison said. "He played some wonderful strokes and his timing was unbelievable.

Fast-bowler Harmison rated his own feat of dismissing Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn in the space of four deliveries as the best over of his career. "I can't think of a better one," he said. "It's as good as they come."

He stressed, however, that England are refusing to let their two wins over the Australians - in last week's Twenty20 international and at Bristol - go to their heads. "If you beat Australia confidence is going to get higher but from 21 July it's a different ball game," he said.

Meanwhile, Giles was passed fit to rejoin England's one-day squad following a successful reappearance for Warwickshire in the Totesport League on Sunday, when he bowled nine overs.

Giles' return would solve England's fifth bowler problem, which slightly hampered their performance against Australia. Vikram Solanki, Paul Collingwood and Vaughan shared 10 overs on Sunday, and while the captain's off-breaks were tidy enough, the trio conceded 58 runs between them, Solanki's two overs costing 14.

* Rod Marsh has quit England's selection panel as he approaches the end of his reign as National Academy director.

ENGLAND (from): M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt), M E Trescothick (Somerset), A J Strauss (Middlesex), P D Collingwood (Durham), A Flintoff (Lancashire), K P Pietersen (Hampshire), G O Jones (Kent, wkt), A F Giles (Warwickshire), D Gough (Essex), S J Harmison (Durham), J Lewis (Gloucestershire), V S Solanki (Worcestershire), Kabir Ali (Worcestershire).

BANGLADESH (from): Habibul Bashar (capt), Javed Omar, Nafees Iqbal, Tushar Imran, Mohammad Ashraful, Aftab Ahmed, Khaled Mashud (wkt), Mohammed Rafique, Mashrafe Mortaza, Tapash Baisya, Nazmul Hossain, Shahriar Nafees, Manjural Islam.