Flower watching Kieswetter's development
England coach Andy Flower has backed Craig Kieswetter, the 22-year-old wicketkeeper batsman, to push for a place in the senior squad having impressed for England Lions during their tour of UAE.
Kieswetter qualifies to play for England on Tuesday having appeared for South Africa Under-19s before moving to England four years ago. He has performed well for Somerset in both first-class and limited-overs cricket and has been in fine form for the England Lions during the tour so far, making 31, 40 not out and an unbeaten 77 in wins over Pakistan A and UAE A and has the chance to face the full side on Wednesday.
"Craig Kieswetter has had a really good start," Flower told reporters in Dubai. "He's got runs in all three of his Lions games so far, so Wednesday is a chance for him to impress. I think he qualifies tomorrow for England and, of course, he'll be excited about that challenge."
"All of the Lions are under consideration and, quite rightly, they'll be very hungry to press forward their case for selection. I've spoken to David Parsons, who is in charge of that group, and it's been nice to see them play such powerful cricket. It is a good opportunity for them to impress, a good opportunity for them to challenge us so they'll all be quite excited."
Kieswetter will find it difficult to dislodge Matt Prior from the Test side, but could find an opening in the shorter format, where Prior's form has been far less prolific. Prior has moved up and down the batting order without impressing in any position, averaging 24.24 from 52 games. If Prior does keep his spot at No. 6, Kieswetter could conceivably play as a specialist batsman, after making 634 runs at 48.76 for Somerset in 50-over cricket and 248 runs in 12 Twenty20 games in 2009.
His selection for England would stir some controversy after the inclusion fellow South-African raised players Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen. Geoff Miller, the national selector, admitted in January that England must be 'careful' about picking too many South Africans.
The Lions will face the senior side on Wednesday with Pietersen eager to re-establish his position as the linchpin of the batting. Having been forced out mid-way through last summer's Ashes series with an Achilles injury he struggled on his return to the side against South Africa and has now gone 11 months without a Test hundred. Flower, however, feels it won't be long until Pietersen is delivering again.
"He's very hungry, he had quite a chunk of time out of international cricket and he's come back hungry," said Flower. "Things didn't go perfectly well for him in South Africa but he did make some contributions, especially at the start of the series.
"It was a difficult challenge for him to come back from playing no cricket to facing the South African attack on sporty wickets. It was difficult for him. This is an opportunity for him to get some serious time in the middle and for him to start contributing again in his dominant way in England victories."