England throw the gloves to Solanki for crunch match

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The Independent Online

It is a universal rule of sport that for losing teams there is inevitably another calamity round the corner. England yesterday reaffirmed this when their wicketkeeper Matt Prior injured a thumb while batting in the nets.

He went for a scan to assess the damage but will probably miss today's World Twenty20 match against New Zealand, a tricky, must-win affair with little to encourage English optimism. Prior was struck by the team coach, Peter Moores, during a spell of throwdowns, which, coming from 10 yards, can be as ferocious as the real thing.

After a sequence of indifferent scores, Prior's critics continue to line up faster than queues outside Northern Rock, but it was what England least needed after two heavy defeats. He is the only wicketkeeper in the squad and, though to call him a specialist might be to stretch a point, he has stood up well to medium-pace bowlers here. In his absence the gloves will probably go to Vikram Solanki, perhaps the sharpest fielder in the squad.

Solanki was already in line to open the batting, with the selectors searching for a winning formula. He is another of the supposed domestic Twenty20 specialists in whom the selectors misplaced their faith, but there is a difference. Although his international one-day career was fitful, it reached 51 matches and contained two hundreds.

Lose again today to a rampant Black Caps side and England's campaign, if it merits the term, is almost certainly over. How long ago it seems since the triumph at Lord's against India which clinched the one-day series 4-3. Was it really only 11 days? Then it looked as if the limited-overs team were at last going places. Now it seems they are only going to the usual place they have headed these past 15 years in one-day matches away from home: down the pan.

To turn it around they need something of the remarkable transformation they effected in Australia last February when, in 11 days, a lost cause was turned into a winning one.

Despite their novel use of bowlers against South Africa on Sunday – there were 14 spells of a single over – England have been outflanked. If their catching has let them down, their top-order batting has been most culpable. The elevation of Kevin Pietersen to No 3 should help. He will bat for the first time in his hometown since departing to seek fame and fortune in England. His usual desire may be further increased because of his ludicrous run-out against South Africa on Sunday as he collided with Shaun Pollock, whom he forgave yesterday.

There has been a growing tendency to talk of Twenty20 tactics, which Pietersen dismissed. "It's hit and miss," he said. "On any given day you're going to get a bloke destroy you." England can only hope that is KP against NZ today.

England (probable): V Solanki (wkt), L J Wright, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood (capt), O A Shah, A Flintoff, A D Mascarenhas, J N Snape, C P Schofield, S C J Broad, J M Anderson.

New Zealand (probable): L Vincent, B B McCullum (wkt), P G Fulton, R L Taylor, S B Styris, J D P Oram, C D McMillan, D L Vettori (capt), S E Bond, M R Gillespie, J S Patel.

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