|Player:||A Flintoff, KP Pietersen|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 25th July 2006
England batsman Kevin Pietersen warned he could not be expected to fill the void caused by injury to star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff ahead of Thursday's second Test with Pakistan.
Flintoff is sidelined for three months with an ankle injury that needs surgery and England are likely to miss his inspiration as they bid to beat Pakistan on home soil in a Test series for the first time since 1982.
Pietersen proved in last year's Ashes series that he has the flair to produce the kind of inspirational performance that has become Flintoff's trademark.
But the South-African born Hampshire batsman insisted he is no match for the British sports personality of the year -- and said other players would have to weigh in with big performances in Flintoff's absence.
"This creates an opportunity for the youngsters and creates opportunities for someone else to come in, do well and play for England," stressed Pietersen.
"I'm not really there to shoulder the responsibility of the whole England team - these blokes are all top class international players so it's not just up to me to shoulder the pressure.
"It's all about 11 blokes going out there and doing their best for England, not just for me to go out there and try and do well."
For all Pietersen's protestations to the contrary, there is no doubt he will now be the centre of attention from the Old Trafford crowd at this week's second Test in the absence of local hero Flintoff.
Pakistan will also have their key player missing at Old Trafford later this week with fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, the only current player to have recorded a 100mph (160kmph) delivery, still recovering from an ankle problem.
Shoaib has caused controversy by accepting an offer from Warwickshire to train with them to increase his fitness levels, a move which has caused some to accuse them of undermining England.
But Pietersen was fully supportive of Warwickshire and hopes their example may rub off on Australian clubs when England are looking to arrange match practice for Flintoff and other returning injury victims.
Asked about Warwickshire helping Shoaib, Pietersen stressed: "Why be horrible, why make enemies? Shoaib is an entertainer and we want to see him back on the field.
"We want to win the series, but we also want to see Shoaib back playing. Hopefully Australia will view this the same way and see Fred as an entertainer because it will be great to have him back for the Ashes.
"Surely they would want to see Andrew Flintoff back playing in the Ashes like everyone in the world wants to see Shoaib running in and bowling at 100mph.
"My mental preparation doesn't change whether Shoaib is playing or not, but it does give you that extra kick and that extra buzz - it's more of a challenge because it's no fun having someone running in who bowls at 95-100mph."
Shoaib and Pietersen were united to help promote the urban cricket scheme designed to increase interest in the sport among schoolchildren at Heaton Park, near Manchester.
Pietersen will assemble with the rest of the squad at Old Trafford tomorrow to begin preparations for Thursday's second Test as they attempt to bounce back from the disappointment of the drawn opener to the series at Lord's.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)