Shane Warne has teased Kevin Pietersen with the nickname "600" in honour of his approaching Test milestone. Warne needs 17 wickets to reach the mark and his needling of Pietersen is both playful and a sign he intends to chalk it up during the Ashes.
Pietersen said Warne, his Hampshire team-mate, hoped he would get picked for the five-match series and has helped him deal with the pressures of being England's "wonder boy" after his explosive one-day tour to South Africa. "It's been such a relief having someone to talk to who's experienced it all," he told The Independent. "Warney has done everything. He's earned his millions, had a ban, been caught doing this or that, and got 583 Test wickets. He's nicknamed me 600 because he wants me as his 600th."
Warne has also been assisting Pietersen - and indirectly England - by telling him the side's weaknesses. "He thinks the best way for England to beat them is by blooding some young players who aren't brainwashed," he told the paper. "He says he knows he'll knock Graham Thorpe over, for instance, and that maybe England should choose some batters who aren't used to being dominated by Australia." Warne has dismissed Thorpe nine times in Tests, five behind Alec Stewart, his favourite English batsman.
The reaction to Pietersen's emergence has provoked full inboxes, and he is prepared to take advice from throughout the world. Greg Matthews, the former Australia offspinner, is another confidant from Pietersen's two seasons in Sydney grade cricket.
"He was talking to me about how I batted in South Africa," he said. "He told me that my triggers are a bit too big, meaning my foot movement. So it's a case of knuckling down to sort myself out." But he was quick to say Mark Waugh based his career on playing through the legside. Supporters should not expect too many major changes whenever he makes his Test debut.