England have been handed an early Ashes boost after it emerged key batsman Kevin Pietersen should be back in action sooner than expected after recovering well from his knee injury.
Pietersen is being lined up to play for his county Surrey on June 12 and he now appears on course, barring any further setbacks, to be available for England in The Ashes, that begin on July 10 at Trent Bridge.
The news is a great pre-Ashes boost for England and should give them renewed confidence of retaining the famous urn on home soil because, make no mistake, Pietersen remains the stand-out, world-class performer capable of putting the Aussies to the sword on his day.
The South Africa-born star can be unpredictable at times but when he fancies it, he is the man that can lead his side to glory. If Pietersen was absent, it would have given the tourists hope of wrestling the Ashes away from England and his influence on the side should not be underestimated.
The 32-year-old will be eased back into action over the next month and he should feature in three first-class games before the big summer battle begins, giving him ample time to fine-tune his game and be 100 per cent fit for the Nottingham opener.
England are usually a much more daunting prospect with Pietersen in their side and his big-hitting style could prove decisive in the Ashes, adding to the threat already posed by Alastair Cook at the top of the order.
His inclusion in the side should severely enhance England's odds in the Ashes betting and the fact Andy Flower can prepare for the matches safe in the knowledge Pietersen is on board is a major boost for the home side.
England are rightly cast as favourites for the Ashes and those odds should only shorten with Pietersen playing.