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Tourists take aim at Pietersen

A game that might otherwise be treated as a jovial warm-up against the breathtaking backdrop of Arundel Castle will take on extra meaning today when Australia is formally introduced to England's one-day wonder, Kevin Pietersen.

A game that might otherwise be treated as a jovial warm-up against the breathtaking backdrop of Arundel Castle will take on extra meaning today when Australia is formally introduced to England's one-day wonder, Kevin Pietersen.

The Australians must feel as if they already know Pietersen, for they have a mutual friend in Shane Warne and have heard regularly of his spectacular entrance to international cricket against the country of his birth, South Africa.

But today the Australians will seek to get to know him better.

Some of the Australian tourists who play in today's tour opener, a Twenty20 match against a Professional Cricketers Association XI, still suspect selectors might answer calls for the young punk to graduate to Test cricket during the Ashes, despite their preference for Ian Bell in the series against Bangladesh.

Even if he cannot break into a middle order that contains Bell, who excelled with a century against Bangladesh, and the gritty Graham Thorpe, Pietersen is likely to figure prominently in the two one-day series that precede the Ashes.

"It will be good to have a look at him first hand," said Australian one-day batsman Mike Hussey, who has played against Pietersen once or twice in county cricket.

"He's definitely an exciting talent but it will be good to see him under pressure in a one-day international sort of setting. It will obviously be a lot different atmosphere than a friendly Twenty20 slog around."

Warne, Pietersen's Hampshire captain and Australia's resident spy in England, has warned Pietersen that Australia will not easily allow him to create the fireworks he set off in South Africa.

Even in the relaxed Arundel surrounds, he can be sure the Australian bowlers will acknowledge his power on the on-side and search for his deficiencies.

In a batting order that will contain New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and the explosive Chris Cairns, Pietersen's will be a prized wicket.

"Certainly I think any sort of psychological edge we can get over him, maybe have a pick over his technique and try to detect a couple of weaknesses, it would be handy," said Hussey, a veteran of Twenty20 cricket.

"I think in any game, whether it's a friendly game or a proper game, your competitive juices always start flowing and you still want to do well."

Rarely has a player attracted as much limelight as Pietersen without playing a Test, although the interest in the self-consciously cocky 24-year-old from Pietermaritzburg is natural enough given his eye-catching introduction. In his first 11 one-day innings Pietersen has hit 558 runs, three centuries and averages 139.

It's not surprising that he was the man chosen to try to whack a cricket ball across the Thames as part of a promotional stunt before today's match.

Indeed, Hampshire teammate and Australian middle-order batsman Simon Katich believes Pietersen possesses that rare, Adam Gilchrist-like ability to clear fences and turn matches and last week said he would not be surprised if he was rushed into the Test team to take on Australia.

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