Third Test: Yorkshire batsman Jonny Bairstow replaces Kevin Pietersen
Last Updated: March 21, 2013 10:24pm
England captain Alastair Cook has confirmed Jonny Bairstow will replace the injured Kevin Pietersen in the final Test against New Zealand at Eden Park.
It was announced on Wednesday that Pietersen would fly home for further tests on a knee injury, which is set to sideline him for up to eight weeks.
And although Cook is disappointed to see Pietersen leave the tour, he is confident Bairstow can rise to the occasion.
"Obviously, it's a blow when you lose one of your senior batters and a guy who's performed consistently well for us over a number of years," he said.
"He's a great player, and will be missed but it gives an opportunity to Jonny Bairstow coming in.
"He's probably been a little unlucky not to be selected earlier, through circumstance this winter, so he has a great opportunity to try to end this winter well."
Although Bairstow has been part of England's touring squads to India and New Zealand, he has had little playing time.
His last appearance came in England's series-clinching Twenty20 victory over the Kiwis in Wellington in February.
"In an ideal situation, you'd like a little bit more match practice behind you," Cook said.
"But you can't choose sometimes, and I know he's just very excited about being given the opportunity - and he won't be looking at that as a negative. He can go out there very fresh, and raring to go.
"He's desperately keen to be involved. He's been on all the winter tours.
"He only got one knock in the Tests in India. Coming back after playing really well against South Africa at Lord's, to then miss out because of the balance of the team was probably a tough call to make."
Meanwhile Cook remains optimistic that Pietersen will be back for the main events in perhaps the highest-profile year in English cricket history.
"If the injury is not so bad, as we hope, and it's just a bit of rest and no operation needed then on the plus side he gets a bit of time off and is ready to go for the Ashes.
"There are quite a lot of sportsmen who play when they're not 100% fit.
"If you asked Jimmy (Anderson), through certain times in his spells, and Broady [Stuart Broad] when his heel (injury) was coming on, they felt it.
"He did, but felt he could get through the game and produce good enough performances to justify his selection."
Ultimately, England have had to be advised by Pietersen as well as their medical experts.
"The scans can only tell so much. It's got to be how the player feels as well," said Cook.
"My knee might, does, feel different to KP's.
"It's important now we don't jump to too many conclusions. He goes home and gets to see the specialist, and sees exactly what's wrong with him.
"We've just got to have a bit of luck with the scan in a couple of days' time."