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Strauss excited by Pietersen return

Andrew Strauss is excited by Kevin Pietersen's return to the England fold next week ahead of the start of their international battle with South Africa.

The England captain touched down with his team-mates in Bloemfontein yesterday, but the middle-order batsman was a notable absentee at the start of the two and half month tour.

Pietersen has been recuperating from surgery to his right Achilles tendon - an injury that forced him to miss the last three Tests of this summer's Ashes - but will link up with his country next Monday, arriving in his native South Africa on Tuesday.

This means he will miss England's first two warm-up games, the first of which is a 50-over match against the Diamond Eagles on Friday.

However, Strauss, whose side held their first training session this morning, is looking forward to his return.

"I'm genuinely excited about having him back," he told a press conference.

"We've missed his quality, we've missed his influence and I also think he's going to come back very refreshed, hungry and motivated.

"When you have a player of that quality with that frame of mind, you can expect him to go out and play really well.

"We don't want him to come back before he's ready, so he's got to make sure he's completely over his injury before we bring him back.

"But it's going to be a great boost for us to have him back in the environment."

Strauss has played for his country for more than five years now - featuring in two Ashes series wins - but admits that for England to win, they would need to play better than they have ever done with him in the team.

He continued: "That (winning the series) would be an incredible achievement - beating the number one side in the world at home, that's as hard as it can get.

"But we're not going to get carried away with ourselves at this stage. There is a lot of hard work to be done if we want to get there and achieve that goal.

"In some ways, if we're going to achieve that goal, we're going to have to play better than we've ever played in my time as an England player. So it's a bit of a step up for us and comes at a good time."

The 32-year-old, who will lead England in the five one-dayers and four-Test series against the Proteas after two Twenty20 internationals to begin the tour, pointed out that one of their focus points over the next few weeks would be to gain consistency.

He said: "I think as a group we understand the extent and the challenge that this tour sets us - playing the number one ranked side.

"This is an opportunity for us to see where we are as a side and also to make some steps forward in terms of becoming more consistent and more able to deal with the best sides in the world on a consistent basis.

"We have some ideas as to how we might continue our development in one-day cricket in particular at this stage, and we look forward to putting those into action in the coming weeks."

The skipper again brushed aside the issue of possible hostility for the four players in the squad - Strauss himself, Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior - with South African connections.

He added: "I think it's only an issue if you let it affect you. I've been here before, Kevin Pietersen's been here before, so it's not something that will affect us.

"For Jonathan Trott it's a bit of a step into the unknown, but he's showed great ability to deal with the pressure that goes with playing in a must-win Ashes Test match, so he's more than capable of dealing with it.

"From our team's point of view it's just a non-issue and not something that we ever talk about."