Fletcher opens door to Collingwood

Bell likely to be the fall guy as Durham all-rounder gets call to ease burden on Flintoff and Co
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The Independent Online

England expect to play two spinners against Pakistan at Multan on Saturday and in an effort to give the side balance they are looking for a player who can bat at five and bowl useful seamers. Collingwood is just this type of player and Ian Bell can expect to make way for the Durham all-rounder.

In dropping Bell, a member of England's Ashes-winning side, the selectors have once again shown a ruthless streak. They have also warned the remaining members of the squad that they are not prepared to accept complacency or indifferent form.

Bell has done little in Pakistan to convince the selectors that he is worthy of another go, scoring only three runs in the opening game of the tour. But it was the sight of him losing his off-stump to Dr Peter Gregory, England's travelling doctor, during practice yesterday, which best summed up his current plight.

Bell may yet get a final chance to redeem himself, but only if one of Kevin Pietersen, Matthew Hoggard or Shaun Udal fails to kick stomach complaints or throat infections overnight.

"Our only area of concern before the first Test is whether we should go into the match with two spinners," Fletcher, the England coach, said. "If we do, we will only have three seamers and that is why we will be looking at Paul Collingwood in this game.

"Colly is batting well at the moment and he gives us a fourth seamer. We are looking to play Colly to lessen the potential workload on our three fast bowlers. The wickets here can be very flat and it can be very hot, and we feel we could end up asking too much of Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison. Colly can perform a useful role for us over here. He is a good enough batter, who has played well against spinners like Muttiah Muralitharan in the past. But the big thing is his bowling, and that is what we want to have a look at."

Collingwood is a pivotal member of England's one-day side, but he is yet to prove he has what it takes to succeed in the Test arena. Two of his three Test appearances have been as a replacement for an injured player and the third was when England chose to play seven batsmen in Sri Lanka. In these matches his highest score is 36 and he is yet to take a wicket. But these figures have done nothing to dent the regard in which Fletcher or Vaughan hold him, and this is his big chance.

"He is slightly unlucky not to have played more than three Test matches, but situations have arisen that have stopped him," Fletcher said. "But Colly is the sort of individual who never stops working at his game, and that is why you have got to admire his character. He is determined to play Test cricket and not to be singled out as a one-day player. His batting has improved a lot during the last year and my biggest criticism about his bowling was his lack of pace. He used to bowl at 78-79 mph without bounce. You can get away with bowling at that speed if you get bounce like Glenn McGrath, but Colly is now bowling at 84-85 mph, which is a useful pace to bowl at."

Collingwood batting at five means that Pietersen will be pushed up to number four, and this, too, is an interesting move. Pietersen has spent most of his career batting at five and he will have to get used to facing a newer ball and fresher bowlers.

Yet whatever team England pick, we can expect them to play a far more adventurous game than the one they played here in 2000. Under Nasser Hussain's captaincy, England's objective was to live with Pakistan for four days and nip the game at the death. It was a tactic that worked as England won the series 1-0.

"We will be a more positive and attacking team than in 2000, but the way in which we play will depend on conditions and the match situation," Fletcher said. "There is a lot more confidence about the team. They will have to make sure that they do not become over-confident and play too positively."

Fletcher defended Vaughan's controversial fielding tactic in the opening match of the tour, when he raced from slip to leg-slip a couple of times when the batsman looked to sweep England's spinners. The laws state that the fielder is not allowed to move, but Fletcher believes that Vaughan was doing only what all good fielders should do - anticipating where the ball might go.

"Jonty Rhodes did it in the gully," Fletcher said. "If he saw the batsman move forward he used to move to his right because the ball tended to go squarer and if he moved backward he moved to his left. But I am strongly against premeditated plays, when a fielder runs from square-leg to backward square-leg as the bowler is running up knowing that he will bowl a bouncer."

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