England have underlined their determination to make history at The Oval next week by completing a first-ever 4-0 series victory against Australia, refusing Kevin Pietersen permission to play for Surrey in the Twenty20 finals day this weekend.
Pietersen was hoping to make a rare county appearance but Andy Flower, the England team director, has told him to rest the calf problem that has been troubling him since the second Test at Lord's.
"He has played four Tests now and this is an opportunity to rest," said Flower, stressing that Pietersen will definitely be available to play at The Oval. "It would have been nice to make him available [for Surrey] but in this instance we can't."
Even with a third consecutive Ashes series wrapped up, England are determined to seize the chance to record their most emphatic home victory against Australia. Whereas Australia have won four Tests in 11 Ashes series in addition to recording 5-0 routs in 1920-21 and 2006-07, England have only once won more than three Tests in a series since the Bodyline storm of 1932-33, and many regard their 5-1 victory under the captaincy of Mike Brearley in 1978-79 as having been devalued by the absence from the Australia team of the players who had signed for Kerry Packer's rebel series.
They have never beaten Australia 4-0, nor won four Tests in a home series against them. Stuart Broad also revealed after his man-of-the-match performance in Durham that the team have already started thinking about the fresh history that could be made in the return series in Australia this winter, where a fourth consecutive Ashes triumph would see Pietersen and Ian Bell become the first England players to be involved in five Ashes series wins since Ian Botham between 1977-87.
Alastair Cook is one of four survivors in the current team, with Pietersen, Bell and Jimmy Anderson, from the 5-0 whitewash in 2006-07, and has confirmed that the bitter taste still lingers. "Like all the players he is probably a bit weary after four Test matches," Flower said of his captain, who he praised as "an outstanding leader" to rank alongside his predecessor Andrew Strauss. "But there is a nice break now before the fifth Test and he will be absolutely ready for that."
Flower dismissed talk of revenge, and inflicting a similar humiliation on Michael Clarke's team. "That isn't a word that would be important in our dressing-room chat," he said. But there is clearly no prospect of England resting key players from the fifth Test or experimenting ahead of the return series in Australia this winter.
"We will be presented with another Test match next week and [the players] will be desperate to win it," Flower added. "The fifth Test would be important even without the back-to-back series."
England will name their squad on Saturday, whereas Australia head to Northampton for a two-day match against the England Lions starting on Friday, with their coach Darren Lehmann warning his underperforming batsmen that they are running out of time to deliver.
"You have to perform to a level that's acceptable to everyone in our team, the Australian public and the media," he said after their second-innings collapse at Durham from 147 for one to 224 all out. "We're not doing that so blokes have to perform to a level we expect.
"I think the big thing for us is we've got to make sure they're learning. If they don't learn, we'll have to change, and find blokes that will. That's a simple fact of cricket and results."
Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and possibly even Shane Watson, if the groin and hip problems he suffered in Durham prevent him from bowling, are under the most obvious pressure.
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