Exiled England cricket star Kevin Pietersen will make a surprise return to Surrey this summer, the county confirmed on Tuesday (7 March). The outspoken veteran, now 36, will represent Michael Di Venuto's side in the 2017 Natwest T20 Blast competition instead of heading back to picturesque St Lucia for another stint in the Caribbean Premier League (CSL).
Pietersen, sacked by England three years ago following a humiliating Ashes whitewash in Australia, initially rejoined Surrey for the 2015 season after incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves offered hope that a return to county cricket could be the first step towards an international comeback. However, Andrew Strauss, appointed as director of England cricket, later stated that he did not feature in any short-term plans due to a "massive trust issue" between the player and the governing body.
"I'm absolutely over the moon to be joining Surrey again," Pietersen said. "I've missed playing here at home and it's going to be a special feeling walking out at The Kia Oval again.
"We've got some seriously talented guys in our team and I'm very confident we can achieve something really special this season. I've had some great times at this club and ground over the years; it's a special place with top people, and I'm looking forward to once again being part of it."
Aside from that brief return to Championship action, Pietersen has essentially operated as a freelance T20 gun for hire in recent years. He revealed last month that he would not be entering the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL) player auction after a busy winter spent playing for the Dolphins in South Africa's Ram Slam T20 Challenge series and for Australian Big Bash League (BBL) semi-finalists the Melbourne Stars.
Pietersen most recently appeared in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). After a slow start, he scored 241 runs and two half-centuries in nine outings but did not feature for Quetta Gladiators in their final defeat to Peshawar Zalmi after opting not to travel to Lahore amid safety concerns.
"Re-signing KP is a massive boost to the club and the NatWest T20 Blast competition," Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart added. "To have a player of his undoubted calibre available to us will add strength and experience to our squad and I'm sure all our fans will enjoy seeing him back playing in England again. His work ethic and appetite for success are infectious and our squad have always enjoyed having him around the dressing room and performing out in the middle."
Surrey have confirmed that Pietersen will make his first appearance in a home clash with the Essex Eagles on 19 July before remaining with the squad for the rest of the competition. He is not available for the opening trip to Chelmsford or for subsequent games against Somerset, Middlesex and Kent.