Pietersen seeks pre-Ashes runs in South Africa

Durban: Kevin Pietersen has said he is looking forward to batting on South African pitches as he seeks a return to his best form ahead of England`s Ashes tour of Australia starting later this month.

Pietersen will play two four-day first-class matches for the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins franchise before flying to Australia.

The South African-born batsman yesterday said his return to his cricketing roots came at his own initiative.

"I was coming out to South African anyway to introduce my little boy (Dylan, aged four and a half months) to the rest of his family and I saw there was an opportunity to play for the Dolphins.”

"(Coach) Graham Ford is a close family friend so I rang him up and asked if there was an opportunity to train with the Dolphins and possibly play for them."

Pietersen`s first match will be against the Eastern Cape Warriors in Pietermaritzburg, the town where he went to school.

Pietersen made his first-class debut for Natal B in 1997/98 and made an impressive debut for the senior Natal side two seasons later, hitting 61 not out and taking four wickets against Nasser Hussain`s touring England team.

He left South Africa amid acrimony in 2000, claiming he was not given a fair chance to play at first-class level because of racial quotas.

But there was no mention of past bitterness when he said he was looking forward to meeting up with the Dolphins team on Tuesday and "getting some good things going."

Pietersen admitted that his form had not been good during the past international season in England but said he was not the only batsmen to find the going tough.

"Batting was very hard in England. There weren`t many batsmen who averaged more than 20 ... they were the toughest conditions I`ve played in in six summers of Test cricket in England."

Pietersen said pitches in South Africa were usually good and he was looking forward to batting against the Kookaburra ball, the same ball used in Australia.

He said England would be underdogs in Australia but said the touring side was a "tight unit" who had bonded well on a recent team-building exercise in Germany. "When the going gets tough, which as everyone knows it does when you tour Australia, we`ve got the unit that will stand by each other and pull each other through."

Bureau Report