Pietersen wants Stanford Series to be over

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The Independent Online

England captain Kevin Pietersen insists his players will be honest about their health for this weekend's $20m showdown after a warm-up victory disrupted by illness.

Pietersen's team overcame the effects of a stomach bug sweeping through their camp to win a nerve jangler against Trinidad & Tobago by one run.

With such financial riches at stake for England's final match of the Stanford Super Series, however, there might be a temptation for players to declare themselves fit when not 100 per cent.

But Pietersen, who top scored with 44, has begun to get irked by the money questions surrounding this match.

"They will be honest, I am not going to take people on the park who are not fit to play for England," he said. "It is like any other game.

"Yes, it's a lot of dosh but the longer this week goes on the more I want to get it over with really."

His team were given perfect preparation for a tight finish by Champions Cup winners Trinidad, who required eight off three balls and three off the last.

Ravi Rampaul sliced to third man and was run out by Owais Shah's throw coming back for a second, which would have sealed a tie and sent the contest into a Stanford Super Over - effectively a one-over play-off starting from scratch.

"It was a good game of cricket," said Pietersen. "We definitely thought we had enough but we have got four guys sick at the hotel and another couple who are not well tonight.

"Andrew Flintoff is on his last legs, so it is just a case of getting the boys right for Saturday now. The lads are just not feeling special at the moment.

"But I am sure there will be not many missing the bus on Saturday."

A real seesaw match could have gone either way, exactly the kind of scenario, Sir Allen Stanford would have wanted when he came up with the winner-takes-all format for his Saturday showpiece.

Flintoff and Harmison just managed to close things out after Denesh Ramdin's excellent 37 got Trinidad within sight of their second win over English opposition in 24 hours.

England would have contemplated a wider margin of success when Trinidad, Champions Cup winners 24 hours earlier, were 63 for four at the halfway stage.

But shoddy fielding aided Trinidad's cause and a shock was on the cards when, with 12 runs required from the final 10 balls, Ian Bell became the latest victim of the low floodlights here, dropping Richard Kelly, running in from long-on.

Although that gifted the opposition two runs, Flintoff trapped left-hander Kelly leg before later in the over to leave 10 runs to get from the final over.

"I thought we had it coming down to the end there with Samuel Badree and Richard Kelly," said Ramdin. "When Flintoff bowled three dot balls and got Richard out that is when the game changed because we were under pressure again. Up until then I thought we would win."

Ramdin managed the late-innings chase expertly, targeting Harmison and cracking him for six before wedging to short fine-leg in the 18th over.

England were forced into contingency plans with the ball as the original team they announced had to be scrapped due to the sickness and diarrhoea bug, leaving Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom confined to the hotel.

Wright and Broad were both due to play but Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara had to deputise, lengthening the batting but limiting the seam options.

It might have been something of a blessing in disguise, however, as Paul Collingwood highlighted the effectiveness of taking the pace off the ball with figures of two for 11 from four overs.

Pietersen also threw the new ball to spinner Samit Patel, and had second spinner Graeme Swann on as early as the third over.

"I think we will have to play a couple of spinners," Pietersen said, of Saturday. "How I use them I am not 100% sure yet.

"We just tried the six balls at the start, I am not sure whether we will do that on Saturday, I will just try to keep my cards as close to my chest as possible."

England managed 141 for six after being put in with Pietersen fronting a late-innings assault with 44 and opener Bell contributing 37.

Pietersen blasted three sixes and two fours after England struggled to 28 for one after six overs and the end of the fielding restrictions.

England's tactical re-think also meant they promoted Patel, a fine player of spin to number three.

He struck a cameo 17 following Matt Prior's early departure before misjudging a slog-sweep against impressive leg-spinner Badree.

Prior, meanwhile, took a blow to the thumb in the field but Pietersen suggested it was nothing serious while Shah jarred his knee, which caused a brief absence from the field.


This week The Independent have teamed up with PA Sport to bring you a series of podcasts. Click below for the latest installment.

The podcast includes:

* A match report on England v Trinidad & Tobago from PA Sport's cricket reporter in Antigua, Richard Gibson

* An interview with Surrey's Jonathan Batty

* A contribution from Kent and England international Robert Key

* A discussion in the studio between host Paul Hirst and PA Sport's cricket expert Rory Dollard

* An interview with sport finance expert Professor Tom Cannon