England began life without you know who yesterday. If the first day was anything to go by it might yet be fine and dandy. Of course, the text messenger known as Kevin Pietersen pervaded everything they did and accompanied them wherever they went.
He might not have been there after being dropped for the crucial third Test against South Africa – though odds were said to be shortening on him turning up in a hospitality box with his biggest fan, chat-show host Piers Morgan – but that mattered not.
To their credit, England knew this, which is why they might have asked the bluff Yorkshire all-rounder, Tim Bresnan, who may not even play in the match which starts tomorrow, to explain how things are. Bresnan, you see, knows nowt.
He admitted as much at the outset. "I try not to get caught up in any of the press, I don't read any of the papers so I think that's why I probably got picked for this press conference. I am quite naive to what's gone on and what's happened over the past week so if you ask me anyway I probably won't know." He wore his ingenuousness almost as a badge of pride, as other Yorkshire folk are wearing Olympic medals.
But "Bressie-lad" had a view on the team's chances minus their biggest star. Pietersen was omitted from the match with his entire international future uncertain after refusing either to refute or apologise for text messages he is said to have sent South Africa players during the second Test at Headingley. It is being widely supposed that an apology even at this late stage might salvage his international career in time for the announcement of the World Twenty20 squad on Saturday. But then he had a chance for contrition before this Test and declined it, so there might be an element of artificiality and convenience on all sides if one were forthcoming in the next few days.
Asked whether England could win the Test at Lord's to level the series, Bresnan was Yorkshire to a T. "Most definitely," he said. "I think at the end of the day we have a squad so deep in talent it doesn't matter who plays. If we play our best cricket on that given day we can beat anyone. It shows you what's happened in the one-dayers – we're unbeaten without certain individuals in the side." He had only one certain individual in mind.
There was agreement with the selectors in taking their decision. "Obviously he's said something or done something," said Bresnan. "I don't know what that is, you guys know more than me, but if they feel they need to take that action then I back them 100 per cent."
But there was also a readiness to see Pietersen return in future. "Personally I've got no problem with Kevin so yeah, if everyone a lot higher up the pecking order than me says it's deemed OK for him to come back and play that's fine by me," he said. "It's the same welcome he'll get as Jonny Bairstow got yesterday and 'Titch' Taylor got last week. It doesn't change because of who he is or what he's done, he's still an England player."
This should have pleased Pietersen, who said in the immediate aftermath of the Leeds match that there were dressing-room issues to sort out. Bresnan, for one, did not feel some players had a problem with Pietersen and to hear their infrequent public pronouncements in the past few days, it is as if they were life members of his fan club. "I was very surprised when he said those things in his press conference at the end of the Leeds game and I think a few of the other lads were as surprised as I was," said Bresnan. "I didn't feel anything had changed inside the dressing room, there was no bickering, no fighting, there was nothing. It was quite surprising."
It has transpired that the spoof Twitter account to which Pietersen apparently took exception was run by a friend of England fast bowler Stuart Broad. But an ECB statement last night categorically cleared Broad of any involement with the account. It even emerged that Pietersen followed the account and retweeted messages.
It may seem ridiculous that England cricket teams are being guided and selected by a combination of social networking sites. But Bresnan rose above it all. He was quite sure that his fellow Yorkshireman, Bairstow, would be a more than adequate replacement for Pietersen. "I don't think he'll care who's been dropped, who he's replaced, it's a chance for him to impress everyone, a chance for him to play in a Test match and a chance for him to show exactly what he can do and show how talented he is."
Yes but what about playing an innings of the sort that Pietersen played in Leeds when he scored a bravura 149. "Yeah, from a spectator's point of view he's phenomenal to watch but I've seen Matt Prior play like that, I've seen Jonny play like it and I've certainly seen 'Titch' play like that this year so who knows? I could go out there and play like that. I might give it a go. It might be the secret!" They might welcome him back but they are prepared to move on.
Related article from London's Evening Standard...