London: England have won four successive one-day internationals since Kevin Pietersen retired from limited-overs duty but Australia coach Mickey Arthur believes they could yet miss their star batsman. Pietersen, who remains a Test cricketer, quit the shorter formats after England refused his request to give up one-dayers but still play Twenty20s.
But Ian Bell, recalled to the one-day team, has so far responded with scores of 125, 53, 41 and 75 against the West Indies and Australia. Those innings helped England beat the West Indies 2-0 and take a 2-0 lead against Australia where a victory at Edgbaston, Bell's home ground, on Wednesday will give a team captained by Alastair Cook, his fellow opener, an unbeatable 3-0 advantage in a five-match ODI campaign.
Nevertheless Arthur believes the absence of fellow South African Pietersen could catch up with England. "Kevin's a world-class player; there's certainly no getting away from that," Arthur said. "He's been fantastic, so it would have been an interesting selection poser.
"You would say they've gone seemingly well without him, because I don't think they've lost an ODI since he's gone. But down the line, I think, they might feel the weight of that decision, because he is a class act - and he was playing very, very well as well before it ended for him. At the moment, they're not missing him but down the line, not sure."
However, England are on a run of eight successive ODI wins and Arthur said: "I think they're playing really well. They're playing a very good brand of cricket. I think in English conditions, they've almost gone back to the old sort of format of one-day cricket - three proper Test players at the top of the order, four out-and-out pace bowlers, a really good spinner."
"They're playing with their specialists; they're playing the one-day game with their best players," Arthur explained. In England, I think that's a message for every other team, bearing in mind we come back here for the Champions Trophy [next year]. I think England have a blueprint that works here, and it's one we'll probably need to follow in these conditions."
But he also backed Australia to raise their game over the remaining three ODIs against England. "I think we can play a huge amount better, with the personnel we have," he said. "We've just got to get our performances up to speed."
Australia saw teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins withdraw from the rest of the series shorty before Sunday's second ODI here at The Oval, a match England won by six wickets. Cummins's place was taken by left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, playing his first international match for seven months.
The often erratic seamer had to be removed from the attack after just two overs with the new ball on Sunday and bowled several no-balls ina return of none for 43 in seven. But Arthur said: "I can't fault Mitch. I can't fault the way he's trained, his preparation - what he's put in has been outstanding. He's still a world-class performer. He's just got to get out [there], get his confidence back. He's got to realise he belongs in international cricket again and he'll do that pretty quickly."