Pietersen thrust into Ashes as bell tolls for Thorpe

Yesterday, when David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, announced that Pietersen would be playing against Australia in the first Test at Lord's, the dream became reality. Graveney described the decision to omit Graham Thorpe as the toughest he has had to make during his time as a selector, but the Surrey veteran's loss gives Pietersen the biggest stage on which to show his undoubted talent.

Since scoring three one-day hundreds for England in South Africa in February the desire of cricket fans to see the 24-year-old play against the Australians has become irrepressible. Self-belief and ambition are abundant in Pietersen, but unlike many cocky youths he has backed up the strut, the talk and the outlandish hairdo with performances of the highest calibre.

The destructive right-hander will find it extremely difficult to treat Ricky Ponting's side in the same manner as he did his once fellow countrymen. And it would be unfair to expect him to walk out on Thursday and smash the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne all around the home of cricket. But a blistering unbeaten 91 at Bristol, an accomplished 74 at The Oval on Tuesday and a one-day batting average of 87 indicate that Australia will not have things all their own way while this precocious young man is at the crease.

"We have no doubts that he will be able to transfer his one-day form into the Test arena," Graveney said. "It was a decision between Thorpe, a man of vast experience with an extensive Test record, and Pietersen, a young, up-and-coming player. We went with Kevin because of what we have seen, not only in South Africa last winter, but also against Australia this summer. We firmly believe that he has the potential to become a world-class player in England's middle order and a match-winner."

Pietersen will bat at five and is set to be the only change to the side which twice thrashed Bangladesh in May and June. Chris Tremlett is the 12th squad member but will play only in the case of injuries.

"I am delighted," Pietersen said. "I am the happiest guy in the UK. When David phoned me on Wednesday night to tell me the news I had goose bumps. It was a very special feeling. I felt I had ticked the right boxes and obviously I have.

"I think Tuesday's innings at The Oval was important. I put myself under a lot of pressure the night before the game. I knew I needed to perform and for the first time playing for England I was really, really nervous."

"Graham Thorpe's shoes are big shoes to fill. He has been, and still could be, a great cricketer for England but this is an opportunity for me to try and cement my place in the Test side and reward those who have selected me. I will try and keep things simple. I will not blow things out of proportion. The only real difference between this game and the others I have played is the colour of the ball."

Pietersen may not be prepared to write Thorpe off just yet, but it is hard to see the 35-year-old adding to his 100 caps. England are unlikely to dispense with Pietersen or Ian Bell for that matter after one or two poor performances. Thankfully, this is no longer their style.

England, as a precaution, have asked Pietersen, who strained his groin at The Oval, to sit out of today's Cheltenham & Gloucester quarter-final. His failure to overcome this problem looks like Thorpe's only way back.

Graveney was keen to stress that Thorpe was fit for selection, but an ongoing back problem will not have helped his case. He failed to play for Surrey in Wednesday's Totesport match at Headingley, for fear that the four-hour coach journey would have aggravated his back, and this is not the action of a man who is confident of getting through a five-day Test.

Thorpe brought many qualities to England but it was his ability to score runs in difficult circumstances, that will be missed most. Since he returned to Test action in 2003 he has been one of England's best players. Thorpe believes the hundred in his comeback match against South Africa at The Oval in 2003 was his finest, but the century he scored on a dodgy pitch at the Kensington Oval in Barbados 15 months ago was brilliant. It took England to a memorable victory, and allowed them to secure their first series win in the West Indies since 1968.

Ashes squad

M P Vaughan Yorkshire (capt), age 30, caps 57

M E Trescothick Somerset, 29, 61

A J Strauss Middlesex, 28, 14

I R Bell Warwickshire, 23, 3

K P Pietersen Hampshire, 25, 0

A Flintoff Lancashire, 27, 47

G O Jones Kent (wkt), 29, 15

A F Giles Warwickshire, 32, 45

S P Jones Glamorgan, 26, 14

M J Hoggard Yorkshire, 28, 40

S J Harmison Durham, 26, 30

C T Tremlett Hampshire, 23, 0

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore