Solanki's chance as injury ends Pietersen's tour

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The Independent Online

A depleted England will take on a rejuvenated and strengthened Pakistan in the remaining three matches of the one-day series following Kevin Pietersen's withdrawal from the squad. Pietersen aggravated an old rib injury during an England training session on Friday and played in pain during the two one-day matches in Lahore.

During each innings Pietersen clutched his side on several occasions and while fielding on Monday he was reduced to throwing the ball into the keeper underarm. He has been advised by England's medical staff to rest for four to six weeks, and last night followed the route of Michael Vaughan and Ashley Giles by returning home.

Initially, it was believed that Pietersen, in an attempt to get through the remaining games of the five match series - which stands at 1-1 - would have a cortisone injection to alleviate the pain. Yet this course of treatment was, apparently, abandoned late on Monday evening when his discomfort increased. England will not call up a replacement even though Pietersen's departure leaves the tourists with only a 14-man squad from which to select.

"I was looking forward to a strong one-day series," said Pietersen prior to his exit. "I hate missing matches and despite trying to play in the first couple of one-day games the pain was just too great.

"I certainly wouldn't want to let any of my team-mates down due to injury whether it is with the bat or in the field so the only choice left to me is to rest the injury with a view to a full recovery in time for India."

Dr Peter Gregory, the England and Wales Cricket Board's chief medical officer, expects Pietersen to have made a full recovery before England leave for India on 13 February.

As England's most explosive batsman limped out of the series Pakistan have the pleasure of welcoming theirs back. Shahid Afridi will replace Danish Kaneria and play in tomorrow's third one-dayer in Karachi after serving a three-match ban for attempting to scuff up the pitch during the Faisalabad Test.

Afridi scored a scintillating 92 and claimed four wickets in the second Test but it is in one-day cricket that he made his name.

As a 16-year-old he posted the fastest one-day hundred in his maiden innings. It is a record he still holds. Afridi took just 40 balls to reach three figures against Sri Lanka in 1996-97 and, with a career strike-rate - runs per 100 balls faced - of over 100, has been terrifying bowling attacks ever since.

Whether Afridi returns to his usual position at the top of the batting order has yet to be confirmed as Pakistan have plenty of talent in this position. Salman Butt, the Test opener, has batted superbly in the opening two games and Kamran Akmal scored a brilliant hundred on Monday.

The loss of Pietersen should give Vikram Solanki the chance to prove that he is not just a super "supersub". Solanki has successfully filled the role for England on two occasions now, scoring a fighting half-century against Australia at the Oval last summer and an unbeaten 39 two days ago.

England lost both matches but without his batting the defeats would have been highly, rather than mildly, embarrassing. Ian Bell is likely to be England's "supersub". Well, it is either Bell, Kabir Ali or Shaun Udal, and teams rarely use a bowler to fulfil the role.

England's preparations for tomorrow's pivotal match will once again be far from ideal. On Monday there were the player appearances on the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year show, and here it will be a late arrival.

The ECB did not want England to play a match in Karachi because of fears of a terrorist attack, and in an attempt to minimise the amount of time that they spend in Pakistan's commercial capital they are scheduled to fly in this afternoon and depart on Friday morning.

England (probable): M E Trescothick (capt), M J Prior, A J Strauss, V S Solanki, A Flintoff, P D Collingwood, G O Jones (wkt), I D Blackwell, L E Plunkett, S J Harmison, J M Anderson. Supersub: I D Bell.

Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal (wkt), Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Sami, Shoaib Akhtar. Supersub: Arshad Khan.