The England and Wales Cricket Board and its managing director Paul Downton have apologised to Kevin Pietersen following the recent criticism from Downton of the batsman's attitude in the winter Ashes series.

Downton appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live's Test Match Special on May 22 to discuss a number of issues, but his comments about former England batsman Pietersen drew particular attention.

The ECB chief said the 33-year-old appeared ''disinterested'' and ''distracted'' in the fifth Test in Sydney, and added that he was unable to find anyone within the England set-up who wanted Pietersen to remain in the team.

Pietersen subsequently hit back, insisting the claims were ''wholly untrue'', and on Friday night the ECB issued a statem ent expressing regret over some of the comments made by Downton which it said were " in breach of the settlement agreement" made with the batsman when his central contract was terminated.

The ECB stated: "On May 22 during an interview on BBC Test Match Special, Paul Downton of the ECB made a series of comments about Kevin Pietersen with which Kevin takes issue including the comments he made regarding his perception of Kevin's attitude during the Sydney Test on last winter's Ashes tour. Some of those comments were made in breach of a settlement agreement between the ECB and Kevin Pietersen which was concluded at the time Kevin's central contract was terminated earlier this year.

"Paul Downton and the ECB both apologise to Kevin Pietersen for those comments made that were in breach of the settlement agreement and have confirmed that they will abide by its terms moving forward."

Downton, who oversaw the decision to part ways with Pietersen in February as England looked to rebuild following their miserable tour to Australia, had told TMS: ''One of the huge issues after Australia was 'what are we going to do about Kevin?'.

''I was quite frustrated watching him as a fan, and there was a feeling he wasn't engaged as he should be as a senior player. I then watched every ball of the Sydney Test live, and I've never seen anyone as disinterested or distracted as Kevin; it looked very strange."

During the interview, Downton also revealed he was unable to find a single person who wanted Pietersen to stay in the England side after speaking to every person on the management team and a number of senior players.

The ECB chief went on to suggest that Pietersen was starting to perform like a "luxury player", adding: "There was a 'this-is-the-way-I-play' type of attitude. He had not been fit an awful lot and he wasn't producing the results he once had."

Pietersen responded the following day with a statement defending his attitude and performances Down Under, where he finished as England's l eading batsman, with an average of 29.4 in 10 innings.

The South Africa-born batsman said: "The suggestion that I was uninterested during the winter Ashes series against Australia is wholly untrue.

"Although I was having injections in my knee, which inhibited my mobility and thus my ability to field close to the wicket, I was fully motivated to play for England and whilst I accept that the series as a whole fell well below my own personal standards, I finished the series as the top scorer.

"I did, and continue to have a good relationship with most of the England players.

"With regard to the criticisms aimed at my ''the-way-I-play type attitude'', I feel it's only reasonable to remind Mr Downton that this method has brought me over 13,500 runs for England, in addition to being part of four Ashes-winning teams and a World T20-winning side, all of which achievements I am hugely proud of."

Pietersen, who became England's highest ever run-scorer across all forms of cricket last summer, also took issue with Downton's comments that it was the player who pushed to have his contract terminated.

"The comments regarding the cancellation of my contract should be put in perspective. It was made very clear to me that I was not being selected for the World T20 squad, and the ECB did not try to give me the remotest confidence that I would be seriously considered for selection for England again," he said on May 23.

"Had I allowed my contract to 'wind down', as the ECB proposed, I would not only have forfeited the performance-related elements that are part of the England player remuneration, but more importantly my availability as a professional cricketer would have remained under the control of the ECB for a further eight months."