England v Australia, 2nd Test, Edgbaston August 3, 2005

Pietersen awarded central contract

Cricinfo staff

Kevin Pietersen: accepted into the fold © Getty Images

On the eve of the second Test at Edgbaston, Kevin Pietersen has been awarded an ECB central contract on the recommendation of the selectors, after making a remarkable start to his international career.

During the first Test at Lord's, Pietersen was the only England batsman to come to terms with the challenge posed by Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, thumping a half-century in each innings of his debut. That followed on from his stunning first foray in one-day cricket, in which he has amassed 786 runs in 15 innings, including three centuries in quick succession against his native South Africa.

"By following up an outstanding ODI tour of South Africa with impressive performances in the NatWest one-day international programme, Kevin forced his way into the Test side and he fully deserves being upgraded to Central Contract status," said David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors.

Pietersen's acceptance into the fold has been a gradual process. He became qualified to play for England last October, but was initially omitted from the South Africa one-day series until Andrew Flintoff's ankle injury gave him a late opportunity to impress. He was the pundit's choice to play in the Tests against Bangladesh earlier this summer, but was again overlooked, this time in favour of Ian Bell.

His inclusion takes the total number of players contracted to the ECB to 13, after 12 players were awarded 12-month contracts for the year from October 1, 2004. These players have their salaries paid by ECB and are available to their counties on a free-of-charge basis when released from international duties at the discretion of the coach, Duncan Fletcher.