Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of all cricket for up to eight weeks by the knee injury which has been troubling him during the New Zealand tour. He will miss the deciding Test in Auckland, which starts on Friday, as well as the IPL with a view to him being fit for the Champions Trophy and the Ashes.

The estimated recovery time makes Pietersen doubtful for the return series against New Zealand, beginning on May 16 at Lord's. He first felt the problem, which could be caused by cartilage damage, during the warm-up match in Queenstown, although it only really came to light when he was absent for a session of the Dunedin Test. England were fielding at the time and it was played down as nothing serious. He made 0 and 12 in the first Test, and although he responded with 73 in Dunedin, he was never fluent but remained on the field.

"Pietersen experienced knee pain while fielding in preparation for the four-day game in Queenstown earlier this month, ahead of the Test series," the ECB said in a statement. "This has failed to resolve satisfactorily.

"Recent scans confirm an injury to the right knee with bone bruising and possible cartilage damage to the kneecap. The 32-year-old will return to the UK for further investigations and specialist review.

"The injury is likely to require ongoing assessments and a likely six-eight week period of rest and rehabilitation. Pietersen has therefore been withdrawn from all cricket including the Indian Premier League."

The fact Pietersen has not been kept on in New Zealand with the series at stake shows that time is already of the essence to get him ready for the main events of the English season. In 2009 he was forced out mid-way through the Ashes series with a career-threatening Achilles injury.

Pietersen's withdrawal will mean a likely recall to the middle order for Jonny Bairstow, the Yorkshire batsman who has not played since the Twenty20 series earlier in the tour. His previous Test was against India, in Mumbai, when he stood in for Ian Bell who went home for the birth of his child.

It won't be the first time Bairstow has replaced Pietersen in a Test line-up. He came in for the deciding match against South Africa, at Lord's, last year following Pietersen's dropping after the text-message controversy. Baristow responded with scores of 95 and 54. In five Tests he has scored 196 runs at 32.66.

England will now be sweating on the fitness of two key players over the next two months. Graeme Swann is currently in the early stages of his recovery from elbow surgery after he was ruled out of the New Zealand tour on the morning of the first Test.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo