Pietersen says Ashes victory in Australia would be career high

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen admits winning the Ashes Down Under would be the pinnacle of his career.

The South-African born star played a key role in England winning their first Ashes series in 18 years in 2005 and also took part in last summer's successful campaign on home soil.

The one victory which has escaped the 30-year-old so far though is victory Down Under.

Pietersen may have scored 490 runs the last time England played in Australia but his achievements were not matched by his team-mates as Andrew Flintoff led the team to a humiliating 5-0 defeat.

Pietersen, who is part of the 16-man team that will fly to Perth tomorrow to take part in England's latest Ashes defence, is confident that the current team are capable of winning back the famous Urn in Australia - a feat which he would regard as the finest of his international career.

"It would be the best thing ever to win Down Under and I think we can do it," said Pietersen.

"It is huge for an England cricketer to go to Australia to take part in an Ashes series.

"You don't win there often. I have been part of two winning series in the UK and have lost one in Australia.

"I'm really looking forward to this one though because I think we can go and do a lot better than we did last time."

Pietersen has endured what he describes as an "interesting" 12 months which has seen him win the ICC World Twenty20 and father his first child while continuing to struggle for form in all forms of the game.

Pietersen's failure to hit a Test century since the start of last year had caused the England selectors to drop their star batsman for the ODI series against Pakistan in order to give him more time in the middle in the first-class arena with Surrey.

Before being dropped, the former Nottinghamshire man struggled in the Pakistan Test series, which was overshadowed by allegations of spot-fixing against three of the touring party.

Pietersen believes that the off-the-field controversy which dogged the tour will help England cope with the inevitable hype which will surround the team's quest to win their first Ashes series Down Under since Mike Gatting led the team to victory in 1987.

"The Pakistan series was a beautiful little curtain raiser for Australia," said Pietersen.

"The guys have been through some tough times against Pakistan with all the stuff that went on off the field and the guys came up trumps."

The rivalry between the two sides was exposed today as images of Australian skipper Ricky Ponting and vice-captain Michael Clarke were projected on London's iconic landmark Big Ben as part of an advertising campaign ahead of the series.

The pictures were accompanied by the words: "Don't forget the urn" , a phrase that, although intended in jest, clearly projected the message that Australia would fight tooth and nail to win the Ashes back.

Despite this, Pietersen thinks all the barbs exchanged between the two sides will amount to nothing when play begins on November 25.

"It's all part of the Ashes build-up. It's more of a media thing than anything else," said Pietersen, who also feels there will be little sledging on the pitch too.

"There's sledging off the field but there won't be much on it. It just doesn't happen," he continued.

Respected figures within the game contend that England can win the series against Australia, who recently lost 2-0 in India.

Any suggestions that the hosts will be easily beaten were denied by Pietersen though.

"They're not a spent force," he said. "In Australia they will be a tough team to beat. They will be right at us and we will have to play our best cricket to compete with them."