Cook leaves Pietersen to Flower
Alastair Cook will leave attempts to rehabilitate the prodigal Kevin Pietersen to others, as he concentrates on the here and now at the start of a new era for England.
- Related Content
Cook has been his country's one-day international captain since Andrew Strauss' post-World Cup resignation last year.
But it was not until Strauss surprisingly called time on his Test captaincy, and professional cricket career, three days ago that Cook could begin his tenure in a job for which he has appeared destined and groomed for so long.
Competitive leadership of England's Test team will have to wait a little longer, of course, until Cook and his side embark on their passage to India at the end of next month.
But the 27-year-old on Friday marked the beginning of his time as both Test and 50-over captain by helping England back to the top of the world, as they beat South Africa by four wickets at The Oval.
Sunday at Lord's - the scene of what proved to be Strauss' final Test last month - Cook will try to keep them there.
It is the nature of the International Cricket Council's rankings system that teams can trade apparently definitive blows, match by match, if they are closely matched at the top.
In truth, it is only once the ongoing NatWest Series is concluded at Trent Bridge next week that it will all really count for much.
But if Cook's hosts can take a 2-1 lead at HQ, they will at least know already they cannot lose the series.
That objective, and how to achieve it, will be his primary concern as England - like South Africa - take a breather today, from practice as well as match action.
Cook can doubtless expect to receive an update on the outcome of a reported face-to-face meeting between England coach Andy Flower and Pietersen.
But enhanced prospects, or otherwise, of an eventual return for England's unpredictable match-winner can have no bearing on how Cook attends to more immediate matters.
England levelled the series on the back of disciplined bowling, and expert variations, from Jade Dernbach in particular on an awkward pitch, before Eoin Morgan provided the batting spark South Africa had uncharacteristically lacked.
It will require similar attributes, albeit on a very different surface, to go in front at Lord's - and Cook is encouraged to believe he can count on Dernbach, among others.
"He was really good. He's a wicket-taker, and he came in and got them at crucial times," said the captain.
"All our bowlers did well, but especially him. He took two important wickets before the batting powerplay.
"The difference here [to Tuesday's defeat in Southampton] was we kept taking wickets at just about the right times.
"We never allowed them to get away from us, and that way we were able to keep them to 211."
Another major contributor to that end was off-spinner James Tredwell, returning again while first-choice Graeme Swann rests his chronic elbow problem - and letting no one down.
"Tredwell is just a really, really good performer," said an appreciative Cook.
"He knows his game really well; he's a great man to have around, and it's nice to have that strength in depth."
There is concern in some quarters about Swann's painful bowling arm, and he has admitted himself he fears more surgery at some point.
Cook said: "We were always going to rest Swanny for the last three games.
"We planned to rest him, quite simply. He was fit to play, but it was a decision Andy and I made before the series started.
"With the amount of cricket we have coming up, we have to look at the bigger picture - and it's really nice as a captain to have someone as solid and as good at James Tredwell to come in.
"He hasn't played that much for England. But every time he has, he's never let us down.
"He does it week in, week out for Kent - and every time he's played for England, he's done it too."
Whether Tredwell's lot is as a permanent deputy or main man will depend on Swann's medical updates.
Pietersen, inevitably, will return centre stage or not at all.
His future as an international cricketer remains in significant doubt, with time relatively short before his next annual England contract is due to be signed at the end of this month.
Pietersen's initial clear-the-air meeting with Flower was reported widely although there was no confirmation from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The South Africa-born batsman is playing no part in this NatWest Series and will also be absent from England's imminent defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown in Sri Lanka.
He was dropped from last month's Lord's Test, also against South Africa, over a breakdown of "mutual trust" with Flower and Strauss.
The 32-year-old's summer of contract wrangles had reached a sour culmination with his "provocative" text messages to opposition players, reportedly including derogatory references to Strauss.
England have since been tight-lipped about a possible reconciliation - other than to make it clear several times it is likely to be a long road back for Pietersen.