London:England captain Andrew Strauss is confident that Kevin Pietersen will be fit to face South Africa next month in a test and one-day series.
Pietersen had an operation to repair a damaged Achilles' tendon in July and missed the last three Ashes tests and the entire one-day series against Australia. He also missed the Champions Trophy tournament.
His recovery was slowed by an infection in the scar tissue, but Strauss said Wednesday that the England batsman, who was born in South Africa, appeared to be making rapid progress.
"The information we have got at the moment is that he is getting better quite quickly now," the England captain said. "We are very hopeful he will be making the trip to South Africa, hopefully playing some part in the one-dayers and then a full part in the test series. That is great news for us. We have sorely missed him and the sooner he is back the better."
England heads for South Africa in early November and will play two Twenty20s and five one-day internationals before taking on the world's strongest team in four tests. South Africa tops the world rankings and England is fifth despite beating Australia in the Ashes series. Sri Lanka, India and Australia make up second, third and fourth.
"The tour to South Africa is going to be a particularly testing one," Strauss said. "They beat Australia in Australia and are probably the No. 1 team in the world at the moment. That is going to be a huge test for us and one we are very excited about.
"Once we have finished in South Africa we will have a good gauge as to where we are as a side and how much we still need to improve."
Strauss dismissed reports that he and several other England players were being rested for the tour of Bangladesh in February and March when the team plays three one-day internationals and two tests against the team that is last in the nine-team test rankings.
"I don't know where this story has come from, it is not something we have sat down and talked about at all," he said. "We need to see where we are at as a side after South Africa."
But Strauss did not rule out that it might happen.
"At some stage, with the schedules we have got, players will need a rest at some point but at this stage no decisions have been made on that," he said. "I would be very surprised if I am not there for part of the tour, if not the whole tour."