It is hard to imagine Kevin Pietersen as someone who is ever short of self-belief, but, nevertheless, it was welcome news for England fans yesterday to hear the batsman say he was in good shape with the Ashes fast approaching.
The 30-year-old said he felt "brilliant" and "full of confidence" yesterday despite arguably having less reason than ever to be optimistic about his game, with his batting form going through a prolonged slump.
The South Africa-born player has not made a Test century since March 2009 and was dropped from the England one-day side at the end of last season. Recently, he has played two games for South African side Kwazulu Natal Dolphins in an attempt to regain his touch ahead of next month's series with Australia Down Under. However, he scored just 36 and then a second-ball duck with the Dolphins.
But yesterday he told BBC London: "I felt brilliant in South Africa. I'm full of confidence going to Australia. It was amazing to be out there and to work with Graham Ford, a guy I've worked with since I was seven years old, a good family friend. It was also good to go and face the Kookaburra ball and bat in the sunshine."
Regardless of his lack of form, an upbeat Pietersen is essential for England as they look to win the Ashes in Australia for the first time since 1987, and obliterate the memory of their last tour there – the 5-0 whitewash defeat in 2006-07 – when they surrendered the urn they had won so thrillingly at home in 2005.
"There were a few of us involved in that, so we've handed over some sort of knowledge [to those players not involved] as to how we want to try and do better and be better prepared for what is thrown at us this winter and I'm sure we will be," Pietersen added.
Also talking a good game was Pietersen's team-mate Ian Bell who is determined to put right one of the biggest frustrations of his Test career by scoring a hundred against Australia. The Warwickshire player has impressed with a new-found mental toughness since returning to the England fold midway through last summer's Ashes but failed to reach three figures against Ricky Ponting's side in the three games he played in that series. That took his Ashes record to 13 Tests without a ton – a blemish he is all too aware of and one that he is focused on eradicating this winter.
"I've been ticking things off over the last 18 months that people have been asking of me," said Bell.
"Against South Africa, arguably one of the best attacks in the world, I seem to be doing it regularly and now I've got to put in a performance against Australia.
"Obviously I know that one of the last things I need to do is a hundred against Australia and start scoring heavy runs against them. I'll be working as hard as I can to do that. Hopefully this winter, where I've come from in the last 18 months and how hungry I am, it could be the time. I'm looking forward to getting out there."
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