Test future uncertain for Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen has escalated his contractual stand-off with England by claiming next week's Test at Lord's may be his last.
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Pietersen held vexed negotiations with his employers at the England and Wales Cricket Board before his shock retirement from all limited-overs international cricket was announced in June.
It seems the 32-year-old may be nearing a premature end to his Test career too, though.
Pietersen followed his man-of-the-match performance in the drawn second Investec Test at Headingley on Monday with a startling press conference in which he made it clear he may well not play beyond the final match of three against South Africa.
He refused to set a deadline for a breakthrough in negotiations, or a settlement of "other issues" he has in the England dressing room.
But with England's annual central players' contracts set to be signed next month, time is obviously pressing.
Asked if the Lord's Test could be his last, the South Africa-born batsman said: "Anything's possible."
The same question was put to him moments earlier on BBC Test Match Special, and he replied: "I can't give any assurances.
"I would like to carry on, but there are obstacles that need to be worked out."
Pietersen passed 7,000 runs in his 88th Test, to the delight of a Leeds crowd who lapped up his counter-attacking 21st Test century on Saturday.
It was not enough - and neither were Stuart Broad's five wickets today - to avoid a stalemate for the world number one team, who must therefore win at Lord's not only to rescue a drawn series but to stay top of the table above South Africa.
Pietersen's presence in London - and during England's exacting schedule over the next two years, including back-to-back Ashes series - will therefore be seen as a must by most England supporters.
It seems he is prepared, however, to forsake his Test future if his differences with his employers cannot be sorted out.
Many have portrayed his gripes as financially-orientated, but he denies those suggestions.
"It's absolutely 100% not about money. This is not a money issue," he said.
"There are clear things that I'm discussing. But there are other issues that need to be sorted."
Pietersen also disputes the idea that the sticking points between himself and the ECB are his availability for a full Indian Premier League campaign next year - at a time when England have Test match obligations against New Zealand.
"That is two of many points - and they're not the main two points," he said.
"Let's get that very clear. They're not the main two points - there are other points I'm trying to sort out in the dressing room.
"The family thing is just another point - that's three points. But there's a lot of other issues that are more important that are being sorted."
Pietersen refused to go into detail about his disenchantment with either his employers or team-mates, but risked alienating public opinion by inviting pity.
"You know what, for me, the saddest part about all this is that the spectators just love watching me play - and I love playing for England," he said.
"The politics is what I have to deal with personally. It's tough being me playing for England."
He acknowledges it would be with great regret if he did have to call time on his international career.
"It would be a huge shame," he said.
"I love playing Test cricket for England, but ... we'll see.
"We'll find out at the end of the next Test what has been going on."
Pietersen took issue with the premise that he is setting the agenda in his controversial negotiations, by making public pronouncements.
"There's always speculation," he said. "There's speculation every single day. You guys speculate about my life all day, every day.
"I'm going to make some decisions that will make me very happy.
"It was blamed on me that pre-Test series it was me grabbing the headlines.
"Did I leak anything to the media about the meetings I was having with the ECB?
"I never spoke to the media for one single second ... and it was me grabbing the headlines and journalists talking about me grabbing the headlines.
"I never spoke a single word to a single journalist about anything that happened behind closed doors that I thought were closed doors.
"So you guys are always going to speculate and make me out to be the bad guy. No problem."
England today aborted a run chase of 253 in 39 overs, following South Africa's declaration on 258 for nine - having promoted Pietersen to open the innings.
He was unable to follow up significantly on his first-innings 149, and England closed on 130 for four when hands were shaken.
Captain Andrew Strauss found himself dodging questions afterwards about the Pietersen controversy, rather than answering queries about his team's near miss in a match which lost 72 overs to rain.
"I wasn't in that press conference, so I don't want to talk about what Kevin may or may not have said," said Strauss.
"I'm not here to talk about Kevin Pietersen. It is not something I want to talk about at this stage."
Strauss' opposite number Graeme Smith can look forward to Lord's with no such inhibiting distractions.
"We showed with our declaration what our mindset is," he said.
"I don't see it changing at Lord's. We hope we will take a step forward."