Flower comfortable with Pietersen's form
England coach Andy Flower has no concerns about Kevin Pietersen despite his disappointing returns in the one-day series against Australia. Pietersen has started brightly on a number of occasions but hasn't been able to convert into a significant score and his dismissal for 8 at The Oval made it 16 innings without an ODI fifty dating back to November 2008.
After a difficult period in South Africa following his return from the serious Achilles injury that ended his Ashes series last year after two matches, Pietersen slowly found form in Bangladesh before starring at the World Twenty20 in West Indies where he was named Man of the Tournament. However, Pietersen's home season has been littered with cameos and, despite the positive strides made by England, his output remains vital to the batting unit.
"I think he actually looks in superb form," said Flower. "His balance is excellent. He is hitting balls through the off side as well as I have ever seen him. I would not so much look at 16 innings [without an ODI 50]. He has another chance to find the balance in decision-making which allows him to stay at the crease long enough for a big score.
"He is very hungry to do that for England. He wants to be a game-changer and a match-winner. Saturday will be a lovely stage for him at Lord's on a sunny day. It would be great for him to score runs. But I don't think it is a matter of him coming back into form - it is just a matter of him being able to stay long enough at the crease."
Pietersen's mantle as the lynchpin of England's one-day batting has been passed to Eoin Morgan who is the leading run-scorer in the current NatWest series after innings of 103 not out, 52, 27 and 47. His prolific form is heightening calls for him to be given another chance at Test level when the Pakistan series starts at the end of July with an eye on the Ashes.
Flower, though, hinted that Morgan will have to wait his turn with Paul Collingwood set to return to the five-day line-up after being rested against Bangladesh. "I personally don't feel any pressure in trying to get him great exposure at Test level, before he has forced his way into the side or until - through someone else's misfortune, because of injury - he gets another chance," he said.
Morgan couldn't rescue England's run chase on Wednesday although he threatened something spectacular when he twice launched James Hopes for leg-side sixes. However, when he was caught behind off Ryan Harris it was the end of his side's hopes, despite Michael Yardy's 57, amid concerns that the line-up is starting to rest on Morgan's success.
Andrew Strauss made two important half-centuries at Cardiff and Old Trafford, but Paul Collingwood has twice fallen in the 40s while Craig Kieswetter, who was brought in to fire in the first Powerplay, has been troubled by Australia's pace attack.
"The most obvious thing that stands out is the fact we need our top four to get away and get big scores," said Flower. "Cameos are useful, but the really big scores not only change the momentum of the game but often decide the result. We need our top four to get those big scores.
"Eoin Morgan has been superb for us in resurrecting certain circumstances and he started to do it yet again yesterday. But we want to put him in those circumstances less often. We want people like Morgan and [Luke] Wright to be there to improve innings that are already set up rather than having to try to resurrect them."