Strauss has faith that Pietersen will hit form

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, has backed the misfiring Kevin Pietersen to shake off his recent run of bad form as they prepare to face Pakistan in a four-Test series ahead of the Ashes this winter.

Strauss is unconcerned that Pietersen, who recently became a father, has failed to score more than 50 runs in his last 17 one-day internationals. His last big one-day score was an unbeaten 111 against India in November 2008 but Strauss is confident that Pietersen will bounce back.

"Kevin has just turned 30 but he has got a lot of cricket left in him," Strauss said. "He has had a tough time, there is no doubt about that. He has not scored as many runs as he has done in the past. But he is a high-quality cricketer and he will come back and play match-winning innings for us.

"He has had a bit of a break and that has been well received. A new addition to the family changes your priorities a bit and you need to get your life in order. I think he will come out and play really well against Pakistan.

"Kevin wants to be a great cricketer," he added, "and he knows the way to do that is by scoring runs consistently and putting in match-winning performances and I have no worries that he will do that."

Strauss is clearly backing him to return to form in their series against a Pakistan side which has already had to appoint a new captain following the retirement from Test cricket of Shahid Afridi after just one match in charge. "I was surprised, partly because it happened so suddenly and because it seems strange to be made captain and then to resign after one Test match," Strauss said. "But he has got his reasons for it and if he does not feel that he is worth his place in the side or he is not enjoying the format, then the worst thing you can do is continue to captain when your heart is not in it.

"It will put a strain on the Pakistan team and Salman Butt is going to have to take over the ropes and keep them on an even keel. Over the last few years there has been a lot of upheaval for Pakistan but that has not necessarily prevented them from being a very dangerous side.

"It is a step-up in competition and with half an eye on the Ashes, it is important we win as many of these games as possible."

The four-Test series against Pakistan, which begins on 29 July at Trent Bridge, will also provide opportunities for other players to stake a claim for a place in the side, not least Eoin Morgan.

Strauss has no doubts the Middlesex batsman can make the transition from the shorter form of the game to Test cricket. He added: "Eoin's two greatest strengths are that he can play the situation exceptionally well in the shorter forms of the game and he has the game to adapt to any conditions he encounters.

"There is no reason why he can't bring that strength to Test cricket. He has a clear mind, reads the situation well, and he can play in a number of different ways."