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Nasser Hussain
Cricket Expert & Columnist

Ashes 2013/14: Kevin Pietersen deserves more time to improve below-par form

Australia would much rather Ballance played at MCG than KP...

Aus v Eng - 3rd Test, Day 5 Highlights

Kevin Pietersen doesn't deserve to be dropped despite a run of disappointing form in England's Ashes defeat, says Nasser Hussain.

Pietersen has scored just one fifty in the opening three Tests, which the tourists have lost to concede the urn with two matches still to play.

Warne surprised by Australian dominance

Australian seamer Peter Siddle claimed Pietersen's wicket for the 10th time in his career in England's first innings at Perth, where the home side won by 150 runs.

But Hussain told the Sky Sports Ashes Podcast that Pietersen must play in the fourth Test at the MCG even though he is averaging just 27.50 after scores of 18 and 26 at Brisbane, four and 53 at Adelaide and 19 and 45 at Perth. That figure is well below his career average of 47.64 over 102 Tests.

"I'm not here to back up senior players - senior players have underperformed and none of them will have a leg to stand on if they are left out," said the former England captain.

"Are England a better side if Gary Ballance or Kevin Pietersen is walking out at Melbourne? Who would Australia prefer? I still see Pietersen as a threat - I still see him as a world-class player, just as I still see Alastair Cook as a threat.

"These guys have earned a little bit of leeway and time. If you've done it for three or four Tests and then you haven't done it for nine, then you are out of the side. If you've done it for four years then you are allowed a little bit of leeway.

"I fully understand people at home wanting change and hurting at the moment but are England a better side with Kevin Pietersen in it? Yes, for me."

Hurting

Cook: We haven't delivered

England skipper Cook agreed that the Ashes defeat is the lowest point of his career but backed head coach Andy Flower to continue even though speculation persists that the Zimbabwean may move on after this tour.

Hussain said he is certain that the pair will give their all to turn England's fortunes around for the remainder of the series.

"These two are very close; they are not quitters, that is for certain. Only Andy Flower knows what decisions he might make at the end of the tour.

"They will be hurting and they certainly won't want to leave these shores 5-0 down. They will want some kind of payback.

"In the last eight Test matches it has been 3-3 all between the sides - that's the only way England can really see it.

"But Flower and Cook will earn their money right now. You get paid extra 'wonga' for what you do off the field; there's a bit of it but I honestly think there's a bit of individual responsibility now.

"Christmas is coming up and the players' families are out; it might be a nice break, but in that break you've got to have a little look at yourself and ask 'have I done enough?' Most of those players will probably say no."

Thrilled

Flower: The players have the drive

England's standout performer in Perth was Ben Stokes, who struck the tourists' first hundred of the series on only his second Test appearance.

Hussain said the innings send out a clear message to England's players - senior and inexperienced alike - about how to deliver in the middle but stressed the knock should also be put in context.

"We build people up - he's now going to be 'the next Flintoff', 'the next Botham'," said Hussain. "I'd say 'keep your feet on the ground, young man, you've played really well'.

"The most important thing for me is how he's changed from a year ago when he was sent home from these shores as a development squad player. He had a couple of nights out too many and Flower had him sent home.

"He's changed his body shape, he's changed everything about his cricket and he's really got stuck in."

He added: "It's a good lesson for anyone out there that the work you do off the field generally means you'll have success on the field.

"I'm absolutely thrilled for him and I'm thrilled that he'll send a message out to the rest of the England side that you can get runs. If a 22-year-old in his second game can get runs out here, anyone can."

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Watch highlights of today's play on Sky Sports 2. The Ashes Verdict returns tonight at 9pm. Join us for live coverage of the fourth Test on Boxing Day.