Sydney: Star batsman Kevin Pietersen is poised to play in England's final Ashes warm-up match on Wednesday after having treatment following the recurrence of a knee injury. The 33-year-old underwent a scan on his troublesome right knee this week and had a cortisone injection, but team director Andy Flower was confident he would face an Australia Invitational XI in a four-day match at the Sydney Cricket Ground beginning on Wednesday.
Pietersen spent three months on the sidelines earlier this year after injuring the same knee on the tour to New Zealand in February. "I don't think it's going to be a huge issue. He's had a couple of these injections before, and they've been successful," Flower said, although the final clearance has yet to be given.
Batsman Ian Bell voiced similar confidence on Monday, saying: "I don't know the XI. But I'd have thought he's definitely up for selection, and would have thought he'll play."
While the hopes are high for Pietersen, who took part in an indoor training session on Tuesday, wicketkeeper Matt Prior is a definite non-starter for their final hit ahead of the first Test in Brisbane starting November 21.
Prior felt tightness in his calf when attempting a quick single on the final day of England's rain-affected match against Australia A in Hobart on Saturday and the England Cricket Board said he would be rested.
"Obviously very disappointed to be missing the game at SCG but doing everything possible to be ready for the 1st Test at the Gabba!," Prior said in a tweet, with Jonny Bairstow drafted in to replace him.
The SCG game will be another opportunity for Chris Tremlett, Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn to stake their claims to be part of England's Test pace attack behind first-choice quicks Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Finn said Tuesday he was ready to step up. "In an ideal world I'd have cemented my spot, but I've got to put down a marker in this game to play in the Test," he tweeted. "I want to go at under 3 an over & build pressure & get wickets that way. Happy with my long run & I'm not hitting the stumps anymore."
England need all the match practice they can get after the Hobart weather prevented a prolonged period at the crease, with rain in Sydney on Tuesday again forcing their training session indoors.
The forecast is better for Wednesday when they face an Invitational XI that boasts a strong batting line-up led by Ed Cowan and Aaron Finch but a second-string bowling contingent with all Australia's frontline pacemen either rested or playing Shield cricket.
The Australian side, coached by Geoff Lawson, has its own injury concerns with batsman Adam Voges on Tuesday ruled out with a lower back complaint. The Western Australia skipper was replaced by 20-year-old Kurtis Patterson.
His withdrawal came a day after Test hopefuls Usman Khawaja and Phil Hughes were pulled from the team so they could play for their states. Left-arm spinner Stephen O'Keefe has also been removed from side after being drafted into the NSW team to play Queensland with Victoria leg-spinner James Muirhead taking his spot.