England captain Alastair Cook has given an upbeat assessment of Kevin Pietersen’s ongoing rehabilitation.
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Pietersen has not played competitively since a knee injury saw him sent home early from England’s tour of New Zealand in March.
He was subsequently ruled out of the return series on home turf, as well as the forthcoming Champions Trophy.
But he remains key to England’s Ashes hopes and his comeback is being closely monitored, with Pietersen meeting team director Andy Flower at Lord’s on Thursday.
He is also back in the nets and Cook believes the signs are good.
“It’s great news for England cricket to have him back playing again,” Cook told Sky Sports News.
“He’s practising first of all and it’s encouraging that he’s progressing well from that injury.
“Things are looking positive on that note and hopefully it’s not too long until he’s out in the middle.”
For now, though, Cook’s immediate focus is on tomorrow’s first one-day international match against New Zealand and the global tournament that follows.
“We’ve got three games here in this very important series, then the Champions Trophy and we want to win as many of those games as possible,” he said.
“Winning breeds confidence and any time you have recent success over an opposition you take confidence.
“It’s a really good test in our conditions.”
Surrey seamer Jade Dernbach has been added to England’s squad for the ODI series against New Zealand.
Dernbach will provide cover for Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan, whose wife is expected to give birth during the three-match NatWest Series.
Bresnan has not played for England since January’s one-day series in India, after which he was sent for an elbow operation.
He has been back in action for Yorkshire, but England will be hoping to see him in international action before the start of the Champions Trophy.
England’s first game of the tournament, against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, is just four days after their final match against New Zealand.
As such, Dernbach – who is not part of the Champions Trophy squad – may be unlikely to play even if Bresnan is unavailable.
Instead, the likes of of Chris Woakes, Ravi Bopara and James Tredwell will all be angling for game time.