• The Investec Ashes 2013

Anderson: 'England better with Pietersen'

George Dobell
July 6, 2013
Kevin Pietersen made his England return in the Ashes warm-up match against Essex © Getty Images

James Anderson has praised Kevin Pietersen as "an extraordinary player" and a "vital" part of the England dressing room.

At the height of the unrest in the England dressing room in 2012, Anderson was believed to be one of those opposed to the manner in which Pietersen conducted himself. While there was never any doubting Pietersen's ability with the bat - he scored a century of rare class and skill in the Headingley Test before England dropped him - there had been persistent murmurs of discontent behind the scenes and the suggestion that the disruption he caused within the team compromised his worth as a batsman.

But whatever issues there may have been, Anderson confirmed they have been consigned to the past and provided an unmitigated show of team unity as England head into the Investec Ashes series.

"We're definitely a better team for Kevin's inclusion," Anderson said. "He's just an extraordinary player. There's not really any down side at the minute.

"We saw it this week in the match at Chelmsford. I know he only got 49, but it just seemed far too easy for him. He seemed in great form. An in-form Kevin Pietersen is vital to our team going forward.

"We had a really good week at Essex. The dressing room was relaxed when it could be and switched on when it needed to be. On the field I thought we were very professional. But generally there is a really relaxed feel in the camp and real excitement of what is about to come."

Perhaps due to issues in the dressing room, England failed to do themselves justice in the key series against South Africa last year. That manifested itself, among other things, with some poor catching in the slips. They were errors which were severely punished by South Africa's batsmen.

While Anderson accepted that England had produced a disappointing display against South Africa and, more recently, in New Zealand, he hoped that such memories would spur them on to do better this year.

"I don't think we played as well as we could have done against South Africa," Anderson said. "Actually, we didn't play anywhere near to the level that we know we can. If you do that against the top team in the world then you're going to struggle. And we struggled.

"We're aware of what that slip in form did to our standing in the rankings and that's something we're going to try and put right. We showed determination when we got there a couple of years ago, a lot of determination, hard work and a lot of skill and quality, and that's what we're trying to get back to is get our standards back up to where we know we can get them. And I think we've come a long way in doing that the last 12 months.

"Slip catching has not really been an issue for us. We are generally pretty good there. It might just have been one of those series where we were not quite on the ball. We've tried to constantly improve. We had a great result in India and a good result at home against New Zealand, so we feel like we're in good shape."

Anderson agreed that Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, was a daunting opponent, but suggested that Jonathan Trott, not Clarke, was currently the world's leading batsman in Test cricket. Both men have scored two centuries and three half-centuries in their last 10 Test innings and both have Test averages in excess of 50. Clarke, however, scored successive double-centuries against South Africa in 2012, while Trott failed to register a century in England's series against the same opposition.

"Clarke is right up there among the best," Anderson said. "He's been in great form and scored lots of hundreds over the last year. But the best in the world? That's a bit harsh on Jonathan Trott. I'd say Trotty is at the minute.

"But Shane Watson is as good an opening batter as I've bowled at in international cricket and Chris Rogers is an extremely experienced cricketer. So we'll have to try and figure out some plans to and execute them well. If we don't play well there's a very good chance we'll lose."

Hundreds of local cricket clubs will #RISE for England by holding open days over the five Investec Ashes series weekends. Find out about your local club and their event at ecb.co.uk/clubopendays

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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