Chester-Le-Street: England Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad has insisted the absence of Kevin Pietersen will not overshadow the upcoming series with South Africa and the defence of their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka.
Pietersen remains in international exile as the row over the "provocative texts" he sent to South African players, some allegedly critical of England team-mates rumbles on. The South Africa-born batsman, England's man of the tournament when they won the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean two years ago, did announce his limited overs retirement earlier this season but then changed his mind and made himself available for all formats again.
However, Pietersen's replacement, Alex Hales made 99 from 68 balls against the West Indies in Nottingham during Engand's last Twenty20 match, in Nottingham in June. England now face South Africa in three Twenty20s, starting at Chester-le-Street, the home of north-east county Durham, on Saturday.
Broad told Sky Sports News on Friday: "The planning started, for these [Twenty20] games and the [Twenty20] World Cup, from Trent Bridge. KP [Pietersen] had made himself unavailable for the World Cup and his replacement came in and got the highest score for an English batsman. The planning had already been set in place, Alex Hales came in and did very well and that's what we've been focusing on.
"We've got a great squad here and we're really excited about the next month," the all-rounder added. "We've got guys who are hungry and keen to develop their skills, and going to Sri Lanka we're very excited to do that.”
The latest series of matches between England and South Africa will see the teams contesting the number one ranking in the third of cricket's three international formats this season. South Africa won the three-Test series 2-0 to take the International Cricket Council mace. But England remain top of the 50-over rankings after a series that ended in a 2-2 draw following the tourists' seven-wicket win in Nottingham on Wednesday.
"It's the start to our World Cup campaign and we're looking to gain momentum throughout this series," said Broad. "The Test and one-day series didn't go exactly according to plan but we've got the responsibility to do that over the next week. South Africa, I think, are number one in the Twenty20 format, so we know we're up against a tough team but we've played some really good Twenty20 cricket over the past year. We need to develop on that and move forward ahead of Sri Lanka."
England called up James Anderson on Wednesday as cover for Steven Finn after the fast bowler suffered a back problem while fellow seamer Tim Bresnan is also an injury doubt. "We've got a couple of niggles, it tends to happen at the end of an English season, so we're probably going to look to be careful and look after the quicks a little bit," said Broad.
"We've got a tough month coming up and there are a couple of niggles but nothing too major. We had 15 so we had to bring in somebody who's not in the squad. Jimmy's been a regular bowler for us - he's not played Twenty20 cricket for a while and not played a lot of domestic Twenty20 cricket because of the international schedule but we know what he offers and we know he's got the skills to deliver."