Hales looks the part but can he turn it on against spin kings
21:43 GMT, 22 August 2012
Let us get one thing straight. It will be a lot harder for England to defend their World Twenty20 crown without Kevin Pietersen in Sri Lanka next month. There is no point us dwelling on that, should things start going wrong.
The dispute that threatens his international future is bigger than that, so we will just have to get along without him.
Alex Hales may have scored 99 in Pietersen’s place in a Twenty20 international against West Indies, and remains an excellent alternative, but it’s a different kettle of fish entirely trying to do what he did at his home Trent Bridge ground on slow sub-continental pitches against top class spinners.
Stepping in: England's Alex Hales hits out
An indication of how tough life will be for England, without their one batsmen who has shown he can be dominant in alien conditions, perhaps came when Hales and Notts came up against Abdur Rehman, one of England’s winter tormentors, playing for Somerset in a CB40 match.
Hales was out lbw for seven to the Pakistan slow left-armer, who went on to take six for 16.
Talking of left-armers, there will be another absentee in Sri Lanka who could prove as sorely missed as Pietersen.
The pinnacle of Ryan Sidebottom’s career was his starring role in England’s World Twenty20 triumph in Barbados two years ago and left-arm seamers in general have been mightily effective in short-form cricket.
Reece Topley showed again that he is very much a left-arm seamer for the near future with his outstanding performances in an otherwise undistinguished England Under 19 World Cup campaign in Australia, but he is not ready yet. The absence of anyone like him or Sidebottom could be costly in Sri Lanka.
Happier days: Kevin Pietersen celebrates after England won the World Twenty20 in 2010
As for the batting, England have some good options, but there are two omissions that stand out.
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It remains a mystery why Matt Prior cannot be a success in limited-overs cricket and there must have been a temptation to include him, however impressive Craig Kieswetter has been with the bat.
And I thought England would take Alastair Cook as their spare opener, because he has shown in 50-over cricket that he can respond to the different challenges the limited-overs game can throw up.
Cook can succeed in Twenty20, no doubt about that, but England clearly do not want to over-burden a man who will, sooner or later, become their Test captain, too.
None of this is to dismiss England’s chances but it is going to be a very tough assignment. They only need to defeat Afghanistan in one of their two group matches to virtually guarantee progress to the Super Eights, but even they can be dangerous opposition, especially as the shorter game encourages upsets.
Before then England will take on South Africa in five 50-over matches and three Twenty20s to conclude the international season, starting in Cardiff tomorrow, and have another world No 1 ranking to defend.
England have won their last 10 ODIs and will be looking to equal their best ever winning run in Wales.
If they do so they will at least bring a turbulent week to a happy end.
KP makes attempt to put things right
It was Kevin Pietersen who contacted Andrew Strauss late on Monday to ask when they could meet to try to thrash out their problems rather than the other way round.
A small difference, perhaps, but Pietersen at least seems genuinely contrite now and wants to take the initiative on mending the broken relationship that most blocks his England return.
Time to put things right: Kevin Pietersen must apologies to Andrew Strauss
Strauss told him he was going to Spain for a few days and will play for Middlesex at Worcester next Tuesday so any window of opportunity before then will be a small one.
They may meet on Sunday or Monday but it is not certain. When they eventually do, KP has to be totally open about his ‘provocative’ texts and show regret together with a vow that he will change.
Only then will there be any chance of a way back for him.
South Africa may have been brilliant on the pitch to defeat England 2-0, but they have not been so good off it. From the moment Sportsmail revealed the existence of the texts that may cost Pietersen his England career, the South Africans, in the form of manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee, have been disingenuous about the affair.
Firstly Moosajee said the texts were ‘merely banter’ when we knew they were more than that. Then he said that England had not contacted the tourists to ask for help in identifying what was in them when we reported that they had.
Keeping to their side of the story: South Africa team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee said the text messages were 'banter'
Andy Flower confirmed on Tuesday that the ECB had indeed sought the tourists’ assistance. And the good doctor said that the texts were not sent to Dale Steyn and AB De Villiers. A question of semantics, perhaps, but they were.
Thank heavens Moosajee doesn’t work for the ECB.
What with all the kerfuffle going on with KP, which has dominated everything, we’ve forgotten all about Jonny Bairstow.
The lad was absolutely brilliant at Lord’s. What an examination of his character! He came through it with flying colours.
Bumble's final word
We now know that this is a fantastic South African attack and if he can come through against them he can play against anything. England may have lost the series but they’ve found a real truly English player here. No doubt about it.