Hampshire wicket-keeper Nic Pothas says former team-mate Kevin Pietersen is a "borderline genius" and can be the difference between the sides during the forthcoming Ashes Series.
Speaking exclusively to Lords.org Pothas, who played alongside Pietersen at the County Ground and Rose Bowl for the best part of five years, gave a glowing appraisal of the England number four.
Pietersen has struggled for runs recently and was dropped from the England one day side after a loss of form.
South African Pothas expects 'KP' to return to his best however, and at the perfect time for England:
"There are very few geniuses out there but I’d say KP is a borderline genius the way he plays.
"KP is KP. A lot of people point fingers at him about the kind of guy he is but the kind of guy he is makes him the player he is.
"He’s a bit single-minded but that sort of focus makes him the player he is.
"He’s in a great place at the moment, he seems so happy and relaxed. Everything’s great at home, he’s had his first kid - he seems really happy.
"I expect him to have a really great series. I think he could be the difference between the teams, I really do."
Tremlett 'wears you down'
Pothas has also had a close-up view of another Ashes hopeful - former Hampshire bowler Chris Tremlett, who he expects to have a hand in the outcome of the series:
"He’s always been one of those guys who could play a big role in the Ashes.
"He’s almost a like-for-like for Steve Finn - so if Finn struggles he could come in around the 3rd Test or obviously earlier if there’s an injury."
There are concerns that 6'7" seamer lacks the necessary agression to be a top notch Test bowler but Pothas says Tremlett's natural attributes are his best weapons:
"He is a nice bloke - but it’s not that nice when he hits you.
"When people see him, his height and everything, they think he’s a strike bowler. He’s not because he hates giving away runs.
"A strike bowler, like a Jimmy Anderson, doesn't mind pitching the ball-up and getting driven because they know they’ve got a great chance of getting wickets. Chris is the kind of guy, with his bounce and the areas he bowls - he’s very tough to score off, which in Test cricket is a great attribute."
"You can’t get someone to be something that they’re not. What he does have is fantastic physical attributes. You can’t buy height.
"For a big guy, he’s very, very accurate. He gets the ball in that horrible area where you’re not sure to leave it or play it - he wears you down.
As a neutral observer of the series Pothas expects it to be a close battle - very close in fact:
"I think England will retain the Ashes - but I think it’ll be a drawn Series and they’ll retain them that way."
Within hours of England
Asked which side he'd be rooting for the South African was non-committal insisting he admires cricketers from both sides.
However, a few years ago events may have transpired to give him a far more direct link to England. ECB Selectors investigated the possibility of him playing under the same 'naturalisation' rules which admitted compatriot Jonathan Trott to the England set-up.
"I came pretty close to playing for England." Pothas admitted.
"I had a meeting with the England selectors in 2007 - with a view to playing the first Test of that summer against West Indies at Lord’s.
"Sadly we couldn’t get a passport sorted out in time and the chance passed."
Matt Prior was called up instead and went on to score 126*, securing a place on the Lord's Honours Boards and a regular place in the England line-up.
However, Pothas is unconvinced by his one-time rival, preferring the abilities of Australia 'keeper Brad Haddin:
"I’d have Brad Haddin every day of the week - I just think he’s a wonderful cricketer.
"Matt Prior is a great player too but just not my cup of tea, as a cricketer or as a person. I’d prefer to watch Haddin bat or ‘keep any day.
"I rate Steven Davies very highly. I think if England were going to take the bull by the horns and say ‘We want someone who’ll keep wicket for the next ten years’ Davies would be that man. He’s got it all but seems very level headed too."