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England batsman Pietersen winning fitness battle

July 31, 2013

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — England batsman Kevin Pietersen looks to have won his fitness battle ahead of the third and potentially series-clinching Ashes test against Australia at Old Trafford.

Pietersen has been a doubt for the match after hurting his left calf in the second test at Lord’s but his chances of starting Thursday are “pretty good,” according to England captain Alastair Cook.

“He has got through training the last two days and done everything asked of him,” said Cook, who oversaw Pietersen doing sprint work on the Old Trafford pitch under overcast skies on Wednesday. “Clearly we have to make that decision tomorrow morning in case he pulls up different to that, but we will see and we are pretty hopeful.”

England included James Taylor in an enlarged 14-man squad for the match in Manchester in case the 33-year-old Pietersen didn’t pull through, and Cook said selectors wouldn’t take any risks with their star batsman, despite his prodigious talent.

“We evaluate everyone exactly the same. It’s a tough game to go in if you aren’t 100 percent fit, it doesn’t matter who you are,” Cook said. “If it flares up, you leave the team at a disadvantage.”

Pietersen made just two and five in his innings at Lord’s — adding to his 14 and 64 from the first test at Trent Bridge — but other batsmen have stepped up to put England in the strongest possible position coming to Old Trafford.

With a 2-0 lead, England needs only a draw to retain the Ashes and a victory to win three straight Ashes series for the first time since 1981.

Cook didn’t give any clues about his possible selection for the third test, with spinner Monty Panesar and tall pacemen Chris Tremlett having also been called up as bowling alternatives.

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