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Pietersen dumped by ECB – what now for battle-scarred England?

Just when we thought we had seen the last of the fall-out from England’s catastrophic tour Down Under, the ECB provided another seismic after-shock by announcing that Kevin Pietersen has effectively been sacked.

This must rank as the most comprehensive of all Ashes defeats, not just in terms of facts and figures (which are bad enough), but also in relation to how many careers the Australians helped either to severely damage or end completely.

It’s a long list: Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, Matt Prior, coach Andy Flower and now the most famous name of them all, so familiar that he is just referred to by his initials, KP.

In the short term, England’s chance of winning the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh next month can hardly have been enhanced by this latest upheaval and Coral have reacted by pushing Stuart Broad’s men out to 9/1.

That’s seventh in the list behind joint favourites India and Australia (4/1), Sri Lanka (11/2), South Africa (6/1), Pakistan and the West Indies (both 13/2) and accurately reflects England’s tumble down the world rankings since beating Australia in the 2010 Final.

Pietersen averaged close to 38 in Twenty20 Internationals at a strike rate of 141.51 and although those figures don’t particularly stand out in a middle order full of big hitters, the man had an intimidating presence and England won’t seem quite as dangerous to the opposition now that he isn’t there.

In more general terms, this is the end of an era. Whatever you thought of Pietersen and whatever the rights and wrongs of the ECB showing him the door, you can’t argue with his record of scoring more runs for England in all forms of the game than anybody else. On his day – and there were many – he was sensational.

Looking further ahead, England are 6/1 fourth favourites for the 50-over ICC World Cup next year, but they have a lot of work to do under whoever takes over from Flower before they become seriously competitive again at the highest level.

The wounds are probably too fresh for a stunning comeback in Bangladesh, but players like Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler have shown more than enough this winter to provide encouragement for the future.

Stokes, a potential match-winner with both bat and ball a la Botham and Flintoff, solves the number six problem for England at a stroke, while Buttler, so brilliant and innovative with the bat, will surely soon replace Matt Prior in all forms of the game once his wicket-keeping gets up to scratch.

Pietersen, meanwhile, will doubtless continue to earn a very good living playing in Twenty20 tournaments around the world and he might even turn out in County Championship matches for Surrey (Coral’s 3/1 favourites to win Division Two) on occasions, although I wouldn’t bank on it.