England gamble on Pietersen to make early impact
Kevin Pietersen will be ready to unleash his destructive brand of cricket from the off when England face the Netherlands in their opening World Cup Group B match on Tuesday.
Realising the importance of attacking during the first 20 overs on the placid subcontinental pitches, England have promoted their most explosive batsman to the top of the order and hope Pietersen will produce the fireworks he is capable of.
In recent months, the South African-born batsman has floundered in the middle order and may find that life on the top is more to his liking, especially as it is often easier to hit the new hard ball than the old soft one.
The promotion of Pietersen to partner captain Andrew Strauss also seems to have settled some nerves.
England wicketkeeper Matt Prior, relieved of his opening duties, will now anchor the middle order in the absence of Eoin Morgan, who was ruled out with a broken finger before the start.
“The thing I am excited about it is the mentality of going into it and the way I have been asked to play,” Prior told reporters in Nagpur.
“It is actually a very positive move for me. The middle overs will be very important, playing spin and also the seam bowlers who bowl cutters and slower balls,” Prior said.
“To try and manipulate the ball around the field is going to be an important part of playing in the sub-continent, something I am pretty confident about doing.”
Prior, who was a surprise inclusion ahead of Steve Davies as the lone wicketkeeper, is enjoying his new responsibility.
“The moment anyone says the word ‘finisher’ you panic a little bit because it carries a lot of responsibility,” he added.
“But I love being part of the team. You want to be covering the wheel, you want to be one of those members who wins games or helps set up wins.”
England arrived in the subcontinent after a 6-1 thrashing by Australia in last month’s one-day series but victories in the two practice matches in India will have gone some way towards boosting their morale.
The return of paceman Stuart Broad, who scripted the wins against Canada and Pakistan, will also bode well as they look to add the 50-over World Cup title to their triumph in the Twenty20 competition.
However, before England face any of their main rivals such as India and South Africa in Group B, they will want to settle scores with Netherlands.
In 2009, Netherlands stunned then hosts England with a last ball win at the Twenty20 World Cup in the tournament’s opening game.
The Dutch will look to claim another upset to prove the game’s governing body (ICC) wrong.
The ICC has decided to cut the number of teams at the 2015 World Cup from 14 to 10, making it virtually impossible for rank outsiders such as Netherlands to make the cut for the next 50-over World Cup.
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