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KP comeback overshadows Bopara's Test return
6:36pm Sunday 15th July 2012 in International
Mixed messages about Kevin Pietersen's limited-overs future overshadowed today's confirmation that Ravi Bopara is about to play his first Test in almost a year.
Bopara was named this morning as the sixth batsman in a squad of 13 for the first Investec Test at The Oval against South Africa, which also includes Steven Finn and Graham Onions.
While it remains a long shot that either of them will oust incumbent Tim Bresnan as the third seamer, to assist Stuart Broad and James Anderson, Bopara is assured of his place at number six.
So much for the predictable shape of England's squad to begin the defence of their number one Test status, but the intrigue - and potential distraction from an important and impending task - lies elsewhere.
It is perhaps equally predictable that the uncertainty should revolve around the mercurial Pietersen, who shocked not just England but world cricket by announcing his retirement from all limited-overs internationals at the age of 31 last month.
It transpired this week that he was seeking a compromise with the England and Wales Cricket Board to resume both his Twenty20 and 50-over career so that he could join the defence of his adopted country's world title in the shortest format in Sri Lanka in September.
Former Hampshire star Pietersen was player of the tournament when England won an International Cricket Council global trophy for the first time in their history, in the Caribbean two years ago.
The terms of ECB central contracts stopped him retiring from just one limited-overs format, when he sought to call time on 50-over cricket but continue in his preferred Twenty20.
If he and the ECB are to establish some common ground to allow his return, it must be done very quickly - before Wednesday's mandatory announcement of a 30-man preliminary squad for the World Twenty20, a list that is binding and allows no opportunity for revision in circumstances such as Pietersen's.
Certainly, as late as yesterday, England coach Andy Flower made it clear he could see no resolution.
After announcing the Test squad this morning, national selector Geoff Miller reiterated the premise that players must make themselves available for all formats - but did not baulk either at the suggestion of Pietersen's return.
"My concern is to select the players who are available for all forms of cricket," he said.
"We've not just got to look at the 'World Cup'; we've got to look further ahead and make sure - okay we can plan and manage players' workloads etc - that he's got to make himself available for how England want him to perform for us."
England have fared notably well in Pietersen's absence from a string of one-day internationals, and one Twenty20, since his retirement.
Ian Bell and Alex Hales, the batsmen to replace him at the top of the order, have been match-winners.
Miller concedes nonetheless that Pietersen's presence remains preferable.
"Kevin's always welcome," he added.
"Kevin is a quality, talented international cricketer - and you want your best players representing you.
"Our changing room now is very, very good - a very pleasant place to be - and that wouldn't be a problem whatsoever."
Flower, however, earlier made it plain that there appears to be little chance of negotiations for Pietersen's limited-overs return to come to fruition.
"The situation is the same as it was when he first approached us," he said.
"The ECB are determined to protect all three formats of the game, and part of that is not setting a precedent of allowing players to retire from one-day cricket alone.
"The intent behind it is that we are serving English cricket in its entirety.
"We have to take personalities out of the equation.