England sweat on late Pietersen fitness test

Julian Harris
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ENGLAND will give mercurial batsman Kevin Pietersen until the last minute to prove his fitness before deciding if he will face Australia in the third Ashes Test starting on Thursday at Old Trafford.

Pietersen’s possible replacement, James Taylor, hit a century for Sussex against Australia yesterday, after England’s management were granted permission for the Nottinghamshire batsman to be allowed to play in the warm-up match.

Taylor ended on 121 not out, proving that he can thrive against the tourists’ attack. Yet if Pietersen recovers from a calf strain, Taylor – who was named in England’s 14-man squad – may not make the final XI.

“Pietersen is continuing his recovery from a calf strain and he will be assessed by the medical team closer to the start of the Test,” said England selector Geoff Miller, who also praised Taylor’s “good form for Nottinghamshire this season”.

Despite leading the summer’s Ashes series 2-0, England seem happy to tinker with the starting line-up between Tests. Seam bowler Steven Finn, who was replaced by Tim Bresnan for the second Test, has now been dropped from the squad altogether. Surrey’s tall pace bowler Chris Tremlett has been called up instead, while Sussex’s Monty Panesar may come into the side if the home team decide to field two spinners.

“Including an additional spinner in Panesar [in the squad] who has plenty of international experience provides [team captain] Alastair Cook and [coach] Andy Flower with a number of options,” Miller said.

The Manchester wicket is usually beneficial for spin, raising the prospect of Panesar partnering first choice slow-bowler Graeme Swann.

Crowd favourite Panesar starred in the 2-1 series win against India last winter, taking 16 wickets in the two Tests that England won.

And Australia could also select two spinners for the Old Trafford Test, as they battle to save the series. The teenager Ashton Agar may be joined by 25-year-old Nathan Lyon.

Both played against Sussex yesterday, while Panesar also played in the match, taking three wickets during the first innings.