Cook confirms Bairstow selection

Blackpool Citizen: Jonny Bairstow will replace Kevin Pietersen in the third Test against New Zealand Jonny Bairstow will replace Kevin Pietersen in the third Test against New Zealand

Jonny Bairstow will replace the injured Kevin Pietersen in the final Test against New Zealand at Eden Park, England captain Alastair Cook has confirmed.

England must go into the series decider on Friday without Pietersen, who is to fly home on the eve of the final Test because of an injury in his right knee from which he will take at least six to eight weeks to recover.

"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," Cook said. "He's a great player, and will be missed. But it gives an opportunity to Jonny Bairstow coming in."

The 23-year-old Yorkshireman deputised to significant effect for Pietersen, against South Africa at Lord's last August, when the South Africa-born batsman was in the middle of an unedifying dispute with his employers and team-mates.

Bairstow subsequently lost his place back to Pietersen, when the latter was "reintegrated" into the team for the tour of India, and has not played a Test since November in Mumbai - on that occasion replacing Ian Bell, who had flown home because of the birth of his first child.

Cook added: "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."

Bairstow has been an ever-present in England's 2012/13 touring squads, save for the one-day international series in India when he was absent because of a family illness.

Apart from their one enforced change, England are thought likely to stick with the players who drew the first two Tests in Dunedin and Wellington.

Their opponents have to decide whether to accommodate Doug Bracewell, after just one comeback match for Central Districts on Wednesday as he seeks to prove he has recovered from his foot injury.

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