Kevin Pietersen looks set to offer England a major fitness boost ahead of the third Ashes Test against Australia after he was seen sprinting on Wednesday.
Pietersen has been batting to overcome a calf injury ahead of the Old Trafford Test, which could see England retain the Ashes.
The expansive batsman was put through his paces by England physio Craig de Weymarn, and he completed a series of sprints as well as a nets session ahead of Thursday’s team announcement.
Already leading the series 2-0, England will want to wrap up victory at the first time of asking in Manchester but captain Alastair Cook insisted during Wednesday's press conference, as seen on Sky Sports News, that Pietersen will only play if he is 100 percent fit.
He’s gone through training the last two days and done everything I’ve asked of him. We’re pretty hopeful.
We don’t know how he’ll pull up after today’s training but we’re fairly confident. It’s a tough game if you’re not 100 percent fit, no matter who you are. You’re either fit or you’re not.
Cook also played down the negative impact it could have on his side if Pietersen missed out, saying: “Kev’s a one-off, he has the ability to win games of cricket very quickly on his own. But you’ve got to be very strong in yourself. If KP doesn’t play, you can’t ask people to play like him."
A major consideration could be the state of the pitch, which is anticipated to favour spin and therefore enhance the importance of Pietersen—a confident player of a turning ball—to the England batting lineup.
"It looks a little bit interesting," Australian opening batsman Chris Rogers was quoted as saying by The New Zealand Herald. "There's a few cracks there already—it'll be interesting to see how it plays; it's quite hard."
In addition to Pietersen, England selectors must decide whether to go with two spinners after drafting Monty Panesar into the squad alongside Graeme Swann.
For Australia, all-rounder Steven Smith is a doubt after missing training on Tuesday, although Australia expect him to play.
Young spin bowler Ashton Agar could be replaced by Nathan Lyon after two tough Tests with the ball, and David Warner is expected to be bolster the Aussie batting lineup.