If England thought their tour could not get any worse after two months without a victory, they were wrong. Kevin Pietersen, the one batsman who had challenged the Australia bowlers throughout the Ashes and in the first one-day match, is flying home with a broken rib, further reducing England's chances of breaking their winless streak.
Pietersen was on 73 when he advanced down the wicket to a short ball from Glenn McGrath and missed his attempted pull. The ball cannoned into his ribs and after a couple of minutes of regaining his breath and attention from the physiotherapist, he batted on to reach 82.
But in one last show of determination, a clearly uncomfortable Pietersen fought the pain to face questions about his tour-ending injury. Sitting in an awkward, rigidly upright position and speaking softly, Pietersen described his feelings at missing out on the chance to help England fight back in the CB Series. "Distraught. Absolutely distraught," Pietersen said. "It's not how I planned it out. I'm just distraught to be leaving this trip without any victories."
Although the official word was the fracture would keep him out for five to six weeks, Pietersen was hopeful of recovering faster and insisted there was no chance it would keep from playing in the World Cup. "I just have to bide my time," he said, "but I'm a pretty quick healer and I'll get myself as fit as I can as quick as I can."
Pietersen added that, although he had been hit several times in the ribs, this parting shot from McGrath hurt the most. "When it hit me I couldn't breathe for a couple of minutes and I knew it was a little bit more serious than the previous times. It restricted my breathing and strokeplay."
But asked the injury might prompt him to rethink his tactic of charging fast bowlers, Pietersen's reply was blunt and emphatic. "I don't think it'll stop me in the future." He even spoke to McGrath on the field at the end of the game to thank him for the challenge he had presented during the Ashes.
Although Pietersen's part in the England show is over for now, he was confident the team could push on without him and even had the temerity to suggest England would be a threat to Australia in the World Cup. "It's not a one-dimensional team at all and I'm sure the guys who take my spot will do a great job," he said. "If we can pick up little key things that improve our game 10, 15, 20% ... the World Cup is a knockout competition."