England lack cover as Vaughan fears worst

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The Independent Online

Vaughan injured his troublesome right knee running between the wickets during England's final warm-up game before the first Test and was immediately sent for a scan. But the images of the scan, which were sent by e-mail to England, were not clear enough for the specialist to make a proper diagnosis. The same images are to be re-sent this morning, whereupon a decision will be made.

The state of Vaughan's knee and the cricket being played by England, who were comprehensively beaten yesterday by Pakistan A in Lahore, mean that he had plenty to occupy his mind as he flew with the team to Multan this morning. The first Test is only three days away and England look worryingly short of match practice. Finding a potential replacement for Vaughan is proving to be even more difficult than sending an e-mail. The selectors were hoping to secure the services of either Owais Shah or Robert Key, but both players have recently undergone surgery on injuries they picked up during the summer.

"We have had discussions on possible replacements and they will continue over the next 24 hours," said Duncan Fletcher, the England coach. "Owais Shah and Robert Key were the obvious natural replacements but neither is available. We were keen to look at Owais but he has had a knee operation that was more serious than initially thought, so he is out for some time. Robert has gone in for a shoulder operation, so he is also ruled out."

When England announced their teams for Pakistan, David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, stated that replacements would be picked from the Academy squad, which has been practising regularly at Loughborough. Shah and Key are in the squad but their unavailability leaves the selectors with the choice of Essex's Alastair Cook, Middlesex's Ed Joyce or Sussex's Michael Yardy.

The final decision may be further influenced by Andrew Strauss's desire to return to England for the birth of his first child, which is due to coincide with the third Test in Lahore. Strauss's departure would leave England needing an opening batsman and Cook is the only fit Academy player who performs this role for his county.

The left-handed Cook had an excellent season for Essex, scoring 1,466 runs at an average of 52 - he also scored a double hundred in a non-first-class game against Australia.

Vikram Solanki is another candidate. The Worcestershire captain has opened the batting for England in limited-over cricket and will join up with the squad at the end of November for the five one-day matches.