Kevin Pietersen has returned fire on Matt Prior after his former team-mate suggested the England dressing room would be a better place without the record run-scorer.

Prior was a peacemaker when Pietersen was temporarily left out of the England team during the turbulent summer of 2012 but he was accused on February 4 of having ''stabbed (Pietersen) in the back'' during the Ashes tour by journalist Piers Morgan, a friend of the batsman.

At the time, the Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman dismissed Morgan's take on events - that Prior had been critical of team director Andy Flower in a team meeting during England's dismal winter tour - and on Thursday night he was reported to have welcomed news that Pietersen would no longer be playing international cricket.

The tit-for-tat exchange appeared to hint at the simmering disharmony which has existed within the England ranks.

According to reports, Prior made his comment about Pietersen at a question-and-answer session in Dubai, insisting England needed players with passion for the cause in their team.

Pietersen responded by mocking his old middle-order colleague's recent form, labelling him 'The Big Cheese'.

"Fewer Q&A's, more Sussex nets methinks," Pietersen wrote on Twitter.

Pietersen, whose international career was effectively ended by the England and Wales Cricket Board's decision to "start the rebuilding process" without him on returning from Australia, then responded to a number of replies to his initial tweet.

One urged him to "be strong", and Pietersen said: "I'm always strong! The Big Cheese won't be happy in the Sussex nets...haha."

When another Twitter user suggested Pietersen's initial comment was "why KP isn't in the England set up any more", the 33-year-old said: "neither is The Big Cheese Prior!"

Former England spinner Graeme Swann waded into the debate on Friday afternoon, suggesting both Prior and Pietersen would have been better served discussing their issues on the phone, instead of in public.

Swann told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I think Matt's been a bit naive doing a Q&A in're never safe in these things. But Kevin has come back in a fairly childish way.

"I'm sure he (Pietersen) has still got his (Prior's) mobile number and could have rung him. But public spats are the new thing."

Swann added on Radio 5 Live: "Hand on heart I had no inkling of what was about to happen. I'm as intrigued as anyone to know what's gone on.

"Matt was one of Kevin's biggest allies when a lot of players thought there was no way back for him.

"But Alastair Cook and Matt talked us round and said 'KP can change' - and he did.

"But what's gone on behind the scenes has obviously upset people to a large extent."