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Pietersen embraces toughest challenge

cricket Updated: Aug 06, 2008 20:21 IST
John Mehaffey
John Mehaffey
Reuters
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Kevin Pietersen embraces the toughest challenge of a career already packed with incident and controversy when he leads England against his native South Africa in the fourth Test at the Oval on Thursday.

Pietersen was confirmed as England's new captain on Monday after Michael Vaughan concluded his time was up following South Africa's third Test victory at the weekend.

Graeme Smith's side took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series at Edgbaston to become the first South Africa side since 1965 to win a series in England.

Pietersen's abrupt promotion has given an unpredictable twist to the final Test of the English summer.

He has engaged in the past in well-publicised verbal exchanges with Smith who said he was surprised at the England selectors' decision.

"KP will always get you runs," he told reporters. "But I think the captaincy might curb his flair as a player.

"You've got to look at who will make a difference in the dressing room. I thought they might appoint a younger bloke, like Alastair Cook, and build him up. That's what happened to me."

Pietersen, 28, has not lacked self-confidence since his debut against Australia in 2005 when he took the attack to Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne with two 50s.

No wimp

"I am not going to be a wimp and say I'm not going to do it," he told a news conference on Monday. "I'm going to accept this challenge and I'm going to give it a real good go like I give everything in my life a go."

Ravi Bopara, who scored only 42 runs in five innings against Sri Lanka in an unsettling introduction to the Test arena last year, replaces Vaughan in the squad.

Ryan Sidebottom, who struggled at Edgbaston after missing the previous Test through injury, may give way to Steve Harmison.

South Africa have decided not to risk the fitness of strike bowler Dale Steyn, who missed the Edgbaston Test with a broken thumb.

Teams:

England (from) - Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen (captain), Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Tim Ambrose, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.

South Africa (probable) - Graeme Smith (captain), Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Paul Harris, Morne Morkel, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Steve Davis (Australia).