London: England coach Andy Flower has welcomed Kevin Pietersen back to England duty by saying he's pleased to have the "superstar" batsman in the squad ahead of the defence of the Ashes against Australia.
The 33-year-old Pietersen was included on Sunday in the England side playing Essex in a four-day Ashes warm-up match at Chelmsford.
The South Africa-born batsman last played for England in New Zealand in March before being sidelined by a knee injury that kept him out of all cricket until he made a dominating 177 not out for Surrey in their recent County Championship match against Yorkshire.
Flower has had his run-ins with Pietersen, notably last year when England dropped arguably their most talented batsman during the South Africa series for allegedly sending "provocative" texts to Proteas players.
But the Zimbabwean, himself a world-class batsman in his playing days, was in no doubt of Pietersen's ability.
"I am very happy he is back," Flower told the Sunday Telegraph. "It was great to see him get that score at Leeds. But it was also great to see how he was in the nets with us prior to that. He looked very confident and was moving well.
"He is very important to our side. He is a superstar with the bat who can dominate and intimidate opposition. He is a big physical presence and a big personality, and those people influence sporting contests."
But Pietersen's return ahead of the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge on July 10 means another specialist batsman must make way and that man looks to be Nick Compton.
The grandson of England great Denis, Compton has been opening alongside England captain Alastair Cook in Tests. But he was left out of the side for the Essex match after national selector Geoff Miller said Root, a Yorkshire opener but a middle-order batsman thus far in his Test career, was the best candidate to partner Cook.
Compton responded by making 81 and 34 for Somerset against Australia this week and will have another chance to impress against the tourists when he guests for Worcestershire next week.
"I would not write off Compton's chances of taking part in the Ashes," said Flower. A lot can happen. His only option at the moment is to score as many runs as he can so that he is viewed as being in excellent form if we wanted to call on another batsman."
Flower, asked why Root had been preferred to Compton, said: "Because in our judgement Joe Root will score more runs than anyone else competing for the opening spot. He's an opening batsman and we believe he has the game and the mental make up to be successful in that role."
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