ENGLAND could give some clues as to Kevin Pietersen’s possible participation in the third Test against Australia as they name their squad this morning.
Pietersen is widely expected to be included in the party for Old Trafford, despite his ongoing treatment for a calf injury.
What is more uncertain is whether they decide to add an additional batsman as cover for the influential 33-year-old, who has been following a rehabilitation programme since suffering the injury in last week’s second Test.
A lack of cover would suggest coach Andy Flower is confident Pietersen will overcome the problem in time for the start of the match on Thursday. Bringing in support, and increasing the size of the squad to 14, would most likely indicate that England intend to give Pietersen longer to prove his fitness.
Pietersen, right, has had a relatively quiet start to the summer but he remains crucial to the side’s hopes of wrapping up a remarkably early Ashes series win after victories at Trent Bridge and Lord’s.
The Surrey batsman shone with a second-innings 64 at Nottingham but failed with two single-figure scores at headquarters.
Nottinghamshire’s James Taylor remains the most likely to be called up should an extra batsman be required, after he was drafted into the Sussex side to face Australia this week at England’s request.
Taylor, 23, played two Tests against South Africa last summer before losing his place. He has scored 824 runs at an average of 58.85 in the County Championship this summer.
Limited-overs mainstay Eoin Morgan, who has played 16 Tests, is another option while Somerset’s Nick Compton and Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance are also alternatives.
England named 13-man squads for the opening two Tests with two seamers eventually missing out each time. Steven Finn played the opener but was replaced by Tim Bresnan at Lord’s while Graham Onions has been left out twice.
Surrey paceman Chris Tremlett has made a good case for a recall, after 18 months in the Test wilderness, but any changes to the bowling department may be to facilitate more spin.
Old Trafford has retained its reputation for spin despite being off the Test rota for three years during extensive ground redevelopment, which has included a 90-degree rotation of the square. Monty Panesar would seem the most likely choice if England decide to give themselves the option of playing two slow bowlers.
The 31-year-old has not played a home Test since Australia’s last visit four year ago, when he featured in a memorable last-wicket rearguard with James Anderson at Cardiff. He has made nine overseas appearances since and played in all three Tests in New Zealand in March.
Meanwhile, Phil Hughes is frustrated at batting in every position from opener to number six on the Ashes tour so far.
But the left-hander hopes his flexibility in Australia’s batting order will save him from being dropped for next week’s third Test.
Back in his old opening spot on Friday, Hughes recovered from a scratchy start to post 84 in the tour match against Sussex.
“I don’t mind where I bat but when you do move from one to six, mentally it can be frustrating,” Hughes said. “At times it can be tough to get your head around the different positions but you’ve just got to get on with it.
“It was different going out opening. It’s something that I’m very comfortable with, opening the batting. I’ve done it for a number of years.”
The 24-year-old is under pressure to keep his place for Australia’s must-win Test against England at Old Trafford following his poor contribution at Lord’s last week.