Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the Ashes after undergoing surgery on his long-standing Achilles tendon injury. Pietersen was assessed on Wednesday morning by a leading specialist, and the decision was made to undergo surgery which means he will miss up to six weeks.
The news comes as a massive blow to England's morale and momentum after a week in which they finally ended a 75-year jinx in beating Australia at Lord's, and so went 1-0 up in an Ashes series for the first time since 1997. Pietersen's contribution to the match was muted, with twin scores of 32 and 44, but it nevertheless took his career tally against Australia to a formidable 1116 runs in 12 Tests, at an average of 50.72.
England, however, will now have to make do without that prowess. ECB Chief Medical Officer, Nick Peirce, said: "Following a consultation, involving scans and testing, with the world's leading Achilles specialist, Kevin Pietersen today underwent surgery on his right Achilles tendon.
"The operation involved a small incision and trimming of the blood vessels and nerves around the inflamed tendon and appears, at this early stage, to have been routine. Kevin will look to undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to ensure there is no risk of recurrence. This is expected to be approximately six weeks but will be taken at an appropriate pace following constant review.
"Despite conventional conservative treatments to the tendon with trial periods of rest and rehabilitation, Kevin continued to be in significant discomfort and is currently unable to run or even walk comfortably. He had a strong desire to get through the Ashes series but despite this he has recently been unable to achieve a maximum level of performance.
"A number of short-term measures were considered but having been reviewed by the specialist, who flew into London from Sweden specifically, it was felt that anything else would put the tendon at risk and jeopardise his long-term recovery."
Pietersen said: "As an England cricketer the Ashes are the pinnacle of the game so I'm absolutely devastated to be missing the rest of this series.
"Up until now the Achilles injury has been manageable but it recently reached the point where we needed to look at other options in terms of treatment. I hate missing matches for England and especially during an Ashes summer but now that the decision has been made to undergo surgery I'm confident I can return to the England team injury-free following a course of rehabilitation.
"I was pleased with the previous course of treatment as it allowed me to take part in this Ashes series but unfortunately the injury has recently deteriorated. To leave a winning dressing room at this time is heart breaking but it wouldn't be fair to the team or myself to continue given the severity of the injury. I'll be supporting the team closely and wish them the best of luck as they look to build on the brilliant win at Lord's and reclaim the Ashes."
In Pietersen's absence, England are likely to offer a recall to Ian Bell, who was dropped in February after a run of low scores, but who has been in fine form for Warwickshire this season, with 640 runs at 80.00 before today, when he made 7 against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.
"I am desperate to play," said Bell. "Having faced the Aussies before I know what to expect from them, and once you have appeared at Test level you want to carry on playing against the best players in the world."
The Australian camp maintained the line of the coach Tim Nielsen, who said on Tuesday he was not concerned by what was happening in England's squad. Shane Watson, the allrounder, said losing a key player like Pietersen "makes it very difficult".