MANCHESTER England batsman Kevin Pietersen almost never played in this Ashes series because of a knee problem which will always require treatment, making his 113 in the third test on Saturday all the sweeter for the 33-year-old.
He was out for three months and missed June's Champions Trophy, with knee surgery discussed despite a nine-month recovery period.
Pietersen decided against it with back-to-back series against Australia on the horizon and returned just in time for the first two of five tests, which England won despite their most explosive batsman failing to fire.
"It was frustrating, nobody likes injuries, I haven't enjoyed the year, my knee is an absolute shambles," he told reporters after day three.
"Missing three months wasn't fun but I wanted to make the Ashes, it means too much and it's proved a wise decision. That's why I didn't have surgery, I could've had that and it's proved a right decision from the surgeon's and from my perspective.
"I'll be in rehab for the rest of my career with my knee unfortunately."
A calf injury nearly prevented him playing here at Old Trafford but his century in England's 294 for seven made him their record run scorer in all forms of the game with 13,242.
"The calf is there or thereabouts - old age I suppose," he joked after passing Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart on the list.
"It's Ashes cricket. I like performing on the big stage, when the team needs me. For England and Australia players, your career is defined by how you perform in Ashes cricket."
With Australia still 233 runs ahead on first innings, England's best hope may be for some rain on day four or five to help salvage a draw and retain the urn.
"My century only means something if we get a draw. Now it means nothing unless something positive happens," he said, admitting he would again look to be aggressive against spinner Nathan Lyon if he gets another bat on the turning wicket.
"Every spinner I've played against I've tried to whack."
(Editing by Martyn Herman)
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