|Player:||KP Pietersen, A Flintoff, MP Vaughan, SP Jones, MJ Hoggard|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 11th July 2006
Kevin Pietersen has told England's novice bowlers to "stand up and be counted" as the team prepares for its Test series against Pakistan.
England head into Thursday's first Test at Lord's on the back of seven straight defeats against Sri Lanka - one in a Test match, one Twenty20 and five one-day international reverses - and with several key players out of action because of injury.
Flamboyant batsman Pietersen is himself fit after a knee problem but captain Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones (both knee) are sidelined, as is left-arm spinner Ashley Giles (hip), while star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff only made his comeback from an ankle problem in a Twenty20 clash on Sunday.
And just when England thought their injury problems couldn't get any worse senior seamer Matthew Hoggard, the man they were hoping would anchor their attack at Lord's, is now a major doubt after his hand was gashed last week in a bizarre warm-up accident during the A team's draw with Pakistan at Canterbury.
England have been hardest hit in the bowling department and Ian Bell, who has been recalled to bat at number six, and Paul Collingwood will have to supplement a raw, four-man attack with their medium-pacers.
Quicks Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood and left-arm spinner Monty Panesar have all shown promise while on Test duty.
But none has yet won a match for England and Pietersen insists that will have to change if England are to gain revenge for their 2005 2-0 series defeat in Pakistan, and so head to Australia in confident mood for the defence of the Ashes later this year.
"It's time for the youngsters to put in match-winning performances," Pietersen said. I know how desperately hard they practice and how desperately they want to do well.
"They have been in the set-up for seven or eight months now and they are coming up to double figures for Test match caps now.
"Having bided their time it is now a case of standing up and being counted," added the Hampshire batsman, who scored two hundreds in the drawn Test series with Sri Lanka.
"They have the mental toughness to do it. I am looking forward to the time when a bloke comes up, takes his chance and grabs that magnum of champagne," the South Africa-born shotmaker added.
"It's important we get back to winning regularly against Pakistan and take that into Australia," explained Pietersen, who was speaking at the launch of a schools' cricket initiative in London on Monday.
Pietersen is confident he is "120percent fit" despite missing the final two Sri Lanka one-dayers with bruising on his left knee - the fourth time he has suffered such a problem.
But with Flintoff out, Bell has been recalled and is set to bat at six.
Bell has opened and batted in every other position in the top five since making his Test debut against the West Indies just under two years ago.
He hopes this week's match can change the perception of him as a 'spare' player at Test level.
"I want to become one of England's top-order players and I would like to think I can cement an actual place for myself," said Bell, who scored two fifties for the A side against Pakistan.
"I don't want to be the guy that keeps coming in up and down the order," added the Warwickshire batsman, whose Test prospects have been hampered by the rise of Essex left-hander Alastair Cook.
Meanwhile England are not alone in suffering injury woes.
Pakistan saw seamer Naved-ul-Hasan depart the tour Monday with a groin problem, while fellow quicks Mohammad Asif (elbow) and Mohammad Sami (knee) are both doubtful for Lord's in the absence of spearhead Shoaib Akhtar (ankle).
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)