ENGLAND batsman Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out for at least six weeks with a knee injury, amid fears he may need surgery that would threaten his participation in the Champions Trophy and Ashes series.
Pietersen has been diagnosed with bone bruising and possible cartilage damage, meaning he will miss the decisive third and final Test in New Zealand, which starts tonight in Auckland, and the Indian Premier League (IPL).
A speedy recovery could see him return for the two-match home series against the Black Caps in May, but the 32-year-old is to be examined further by specialists in Britain, with an operation still a possibility.
Surgery would be likely to prolong the 32-year-old’s absence and cast doubt on his availability for the 50-over Champions Trophy in June and the home Ashes series, which begins on 10 July.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said Pietersen felt pain in his right knee while preparing for a tour match in Queenstown that preceded the current Test series, and that it had “failed to resolve satisfactorily”.
“Recent scans confirm an injury to the right knee with bone bruising and possible cartilage damage to the kneecap,” the ECB added.
“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 to eight week period of rest and rehabilitation. Pietersen has therefore been withdrawn from all cricket including the Indian Premier League.”
Pietersen’s injury makes him the third Test regular to suffer a serious problem in recent weeks, following key spinner Graeme Swann and seamer Tim Bresnan, who are both recovering from elbow surgery.
The South Africa-born Surrey star, who has scored 7499 runs in 94 Tests at an average of 49.01, was out for a duck and scored 12 in the first Test against New Zealand but hit 73 in the second, which was also drawn.
Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow, England’s only available specialist batsman, is expected to replace Pietersen in Auckland but has not played a Test since the tour of India in November.
Pietersen had been due to begin a lucrative month-long stint with the Delhi Daredevils following the third Test.