England have been dealt a hammer blow with the news today that star batsman Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the rest ot the Ashes series after undergoing surgery on his Achiles tendon.
The injury has dogged Pietersen all summer and he has had a number of injections to try to alleviate the problem and the surgery he has undergone rules him out of any cricket for up to six weeks.
That timeframe could leave him in the frame to return for England's assault on the Champions Trophy which begins in September in South Africa.
"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," Pietersen said in a statement released by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
"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."
Pietersen's run of 54 Test matches without missing a match since his debut in 2005 will therefore come to an end and the next chance he will have to play a Test match will be in South Africa in December.
ECB Chief Medical Officer, Nick Peirce, added: "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."
England lead the five-match series 1-0 after a 115-run victory at Lord's and it is understood that Pietersen will be replaced in the England squad by Warwickshire's Ian Bell.
The remaining Tests take place at Edgbaston, Headingley and The Oval.
© Cricket World 2009