Michael Clarke backs Kevin Pietersen to make Ashes return

Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen put pressure on the England selectors with a sparkling century for Surrey against Oxford University

Kevin Pietersen is scoring enough runs to warrant a return to the England team, says Australia captain Michael Clarke.

The Surrey batsman, 34, has not played for his country since the last Ashes series in Australia, which England lost 5-0.

On his return to first-class cricket, he scored 170 against Oxford MCCU.

"I do think he could be at the Ashes," said Clarke. "He has certainly scored enough runs."

Kevin Pietersen's England record
Pietersen has scored 8,181 runs in 104 Tests at an average of 47.28. He has a highest score of 227 and has made 23 centuries.
He is also England's leading run-scorer across all formats, having scored 4,440 runs in 136 one-day internationals and 1,176 runs in 37 Twenty20s.
He has won four Ashes series and was player of the tournament in England's World Twenty20 triumph in 2010.

England are currently touring the West Indies before hosting New Zealand in May. They will begin their bid to regain the Ashes in Cardiff on 8 July.

Pietersen's England career appeared to be over after former England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton accused him of being "disengaged" from his team-mates during the last Ashes series.

Downton stepped down from his role at the ECB following England's first-round exit from the recent World Cup, and new ECB chairman Colin Graves has suggested Pietersen could return as long as he "scores a lot of runs" in county cricket.

"He has made it very clear he wants to play and now it will come down to the England selectors and England board making a decision," added Clarke. "But at the moment from the Australians' perspective, I'm happy if he is not playing because he is a wonderful player."

Clarke, 34, was speaking after confirming he will be Pietersen's captain at Melbourne Starsexternal-link in the Big Bash League - Australia's Twenty20 tournament - next year.

The World Cup winner said he was relishing the chance to play alongside Pietersen.

"It's going to be nice to be on the same side," he said. "To have that luxury as captain - to have a player like that in your team - is extremely exciting and I know he'll play a big part is us having success."