London: Kevin Pietersen is nowhere in the vicinity of the all-important third Test between England and South Africa at Lord's, yet, as seems typical when the hugely-talented but complex batsman is involved, his name has been mentioned more than any other in the build-up.
The Test is as eagerly anticipated as any in recent memory – even Ashes contests – given what's on the line. England must win to draw the series and retain their status as the world's No. 1 Test team. Any other result will mean the South Africans leapfrog them to the summit. The match is also England captain Andrew Strauss's hundredth Test. If that is not enough to capture frenzied excitement, then throw in The Pietersen Issue for the extra spice.
With a bat in-hand, Pietersen's timing is better than that of most in world cricket. But put a microphone in front of him or let him loose with a public statement and things go awry. His initial "it's tough being me in the England team" outburst after the Headingley Test outraged his team-mates and that was compounded by news that he had sent text messages to members of the South Africa team (in which he allegedly criticised Strauss), which he apologised for on August 14 in an effort to rebuild bridges and find a way back into the team.