No KP distraction for England
There was a convincing air of business as usual for England and prodigal batsman Kevin Pietersen at The Oval today.
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He and they could hardly permit any other impression, of course, as they fine-tune preparations for their high-profile three-match Investec Test series against his native South Africa.
It is unthinkable that the controversy surrounding Pietersen's on-off limited-overs retirement - and the deadline looming on Wednesday for a compromise to be brokered - could be seen to have any detrimental effect on England's necessary focus on their significant challenge against South Africa.
So it was that James Anderson, himself a central figure as England's pace spearhead in the heavyweight series in prospect, stuck to his script and said mostly the right things on cue when the subject of Pietersen was raised.
The publication of England's preliminary 30-man squad for September's defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown in Sri Lanka will provide a sort of closure, in the nick of time before this first Test, on the current Pietersen saga.
There remains a possibility that he could yet be back into the reckoning when England are required next month to pare their 30 down to 15.
It may take some persuasive explanations to the International Cricket Council to achieve that end, in the event of Pietersen and the England and Wales Cricket Board identifying common ground on his schedule and Indian Premier League availability to bring about a U-turn on his shock decision to retire last month from the shorter formats; on the other hand, it will doubtless by agreeable to the world governing body to have the superstar batsman of the 2010 event back for their next tournament.
Either way, Anderson did his duty to profess England are in no way distracted by the latest Pietersen controversy.
"Not at all," said the occasionally equivocal fast bowler.
"Now we've met up as a Test side, we're going to concentrate completely on it and get ready for first thing on Thursday."
Anderson and Pietersen set about doing just that, with a long bowl and a long bat each in a net practice - closely attended by Andy Flower.
The latter has made it plain in recent days that Pietersen's idea of a compromise remains highly unlikely to come to fruition. But there was nothing in the body language of either coach or player, as they went about their respective jobs, to betray the stand-off depicted in some quarters.
Anderson, meanwhile, is confident both Pietersen and his Test team-mates will be in the right frame of mind to do their best - as they surely must - in defence of their world number one crown.
"There's often headlines around players - some more than others - that comes with the job," he said.
"That's left outside our little bubble in the dressing room. We just talk about what we're going to do on Thursday.
"Generally when Kevin is making the headlines he tends to play very well so I hope he'll continue the form he's shown this summer and get us some big runs which we'll need in the middle order."
Anderson had predictable praise for his and Pietersen's employers too - although not without an intriguing implication, deliberate or otherwise, that things have not always been so.
"The ECB have been very good at handling a lot of situations," he said.
"They've got much better in the last few years at handling certain situations.
"They've handled it brilliantly at the minute. I'm sure they'll continue to do that, and I'll leave them to do that."
Anderson, it is not difficult to sense, would much rather talk about the start of a series sure to test England's mettle - irrespective of any Pietersen complications - in their table-topping bid for an eighth successive home victory, against the last team to beat them here.
"We've been playing really well at home," he said.
"This is going to be our toughest challenge for a while. But we are still confident going into it.
"We think we have the necessary weapons to be able to beat them - and that's the way we go into most series, thinking we are going to win.
"It's exciting because you're testing yourself against the best in the world.
"They have four batsmen in the top 10 in the world, and it's really exciting as a bowler to be able to challenge yourself against batsmen like that.
"There's not going to be time to ease into the series. We're going to have to be on top of our game from the first minute."
To that end, England could do without any late injury dramas - and although key off-spinner Graeme Swann, likely third seamer Tim Bresnan and wicketkeeper Matt Prior have all had injections on sore joints, Anderson is confident all will be fine.
"I don't think it's a huge issue," he said.
"You get injuries and niggles from time to time, and often the best way of dealing with them is injections.
"They're very common throughout cricket and sport. It's nothing that we really worry about."
He might easily have chosen those same words to convey the collective calm over Pietersen too.