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Warne is Pietersen~~s mentor at Hampshire

Published: Monday, April 11, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Southampton:Kevin Pietersen is preparing to force his way into England's Ashes squad with a little help from Shane Warne, the great spin bowler who will line up for the Australian opposition.

While Warne has been named in his fourth Ashes tour of England and at 35 is in the twilight of a record-breaking career, Pietersen is still a self-confessed novice.

But outstanding performances in his native South Africa for his adopted England in Limited Overs Internationals last winter have put Pietersen on the threshold of his first Test cap.

That would pit him against the most powerful side in the world and against his new mentor and adviser, Warne.

Pietersen moved from Nottinghamshire to Hampshire at the end of last season and one of the main reasons was because Warne is Hampshire's captain.

"Warne is a great leader and a great bloke and I am sure I can learn a hell of a lot from him," Pietersen said.

"From what I have seen already he is a great motivator and enthusiast and the other players are lifted by his mere presence. Who would not be?"

Warne said Pietersen had been in constant touch throughout the winter by phone and by text and were getting on well.

They live near each other on Southampton's seafront and together they watched the climax of the United States Masters golf late into the night soon after Warne's arrival.

Warne joked: "I am only going to bowl wrong 'uns to him in the nets so he does not get to see my full range of deliveries.

"But I think he is an exciting young cricketer with a good head on his shoulders and with the right, attacking attitude."

Pietersen has learned to be cautious despite the incredible start to his international career against a background of hostility from South Africans labelling him a traitor.

"That was just a start. A good start, admittedly, but nothing more than that.

"Everyone assumes I will be in the Ashes squad and while I would love that to happen, I am taking nothing for granted.

"I feel I can make the next step up and I am ready to play in Tests if required or selected but there is plenty of competition and there are some good players in the England team.

"My main aim is to get some runs for Hampshire, learn what I can from Shane Warne and keep my place in the England One-day squad.

"Of course I would love to play in an Ashes series. It is every cricketer's dream and facing such a great side as the Australians would be a huge challenge."

Hampshire fear that having persuaded Pietersen to move south from Nottinghamshire to further his domestic career, they will now lose him to a central contract.

The ECB will name their centrally contracted players later this summer and it would be a surprise if Pietersen was omitted.

"I want to play as much cricket as possible so I hope that if I am lucky enough to get an England contract I will still be able to play for Hampshire.

"With Warney around it promises to a tremendous season ahead."

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