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Cricket: Pietersen sweating - and so are England as series decider looms.

Byline: By Myles Hodgson

England's build-up to the crucial final npower Test against India has been severely disrupted by leading batsman Kevin Pietersen being ruled out of practice at the Oval by an illness.

The Hampshire batsman was in bed with a high temperature while his team-mates prepared for a Test they must win to prevent India becoming the first side since Australia in 2001 to win a Test series in England.

Pietersen has not missed a Test since making his debut against Australia at Lord's two years ago, averaging 52 from his 29 appearances, and will be crucial to England's hopes of levelling the series with victory at the Brit Oval.

He has been given a course of antibiotics and will be assessed this morning, although England have resisted the temptation to call up another batsman on standby.

His absence from practice yesterday continued England's week of misfortune after there were considerable recriminations about the behaviour of both sides during the stormy second Test at Trent Bridge, which India won by seven wickets.

England were criticised for attempting to unsettle Zaheer Khan at the crease by placing jelly beans on the wicket and David Morgan, the England and Wales Cricket Board's chairman, has spelt out in the programme notes for this week's final Test the need to improve their behaviour.

It is a warning which has been taken on board by England's players.

Opener Andrew Strauss admitted: "We haven't tried to pay too much attention on it -these things can become distractions which can prevent you playing your best cricket.

"At the same time, the fact there's been such a strong reaction suggests we need to look at how we play our cricket and make sure we're not over-stepping any marks.

"We all recognise that in international cricket it's important we play with intensity and with controlled aggression because that's how you win Test matches, but there's also a line there and we have that responsibility to club cricketers and young cricketers not to cross that line.

"We recognise that but I don't think you'll see a massive change to how we play this week because it's important we do play with that aggression, but it's going to be important we don't cross any lines during the next five days."

He insisted the incident was "a misunderstanding" with England claiming that Zaheer had mistakenly believed they had been throwing the jelly beans at him when in fact they were just lying on the wicket.

Zaheer reacted by waving his bat at Pietersen in the gully, who insisted he had nothing to do with it, and at the end of the over the umpires spoke to Strauss, who was acting captain at the time with Michael Vaughan off the field.

"It was a situation that came about through a misunderstanding more than anything and that probably inflamed the situation more than it probably merited," said Strauss.

"The umpires felt it could be developing into something nasty and it was important from my point of view to ask the guys to calm it down and concentrate on their cricket.

"It has been built into a very big thing and from our point of view there are probably lessons to be learned about that, the recriminations and how things can be blown out of all proportion.

"We're trying to move on from it, we've seen it do the rounds and we want to concentrate on the cricket now."

With Pietersen absent and Stuart Broad playing for Leicestershire in a Pro40 match at Derby, England were reduced to only 10 players for their final, intensive practice session.

But there was no lack of intent among those players present as they attempt to salvage both their reputation and an unbeaten run spanning 11 successive series without defeat.

"We don't want to lose this series," stressed Strauss, who scored his last century for England a year ago against Pakistan at Headingley.

"I don't feel we're a worse side than India so we need to go out and prove that this week."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 8, 2007
Words:676
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