Trescothick family drama threatens new batting crisis

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Michael Vaughan and the England team will this morning find out whether Marcus Trescothick is to remain in Pakistan, or return home to Taunton. Trescothick has been contemplating flying back to England after learning that his father-in-law had suffered a serious head injury at the weekend when he fell from a ladder.

Losing Trescothick would be a huge blow for England, who lost the first Test against Pakistan on Wednesday by 22 runs. Trescothick scored 193 in England's first innings and his absence would leave the tourists needing to find an opening batsman for Sunday's second Test.

There was, however, brighter news on the fitness of Vaughan, whose chances of playing in Faisalabad continue to rise by the day. The England captain would be Trescothick's obvious replacement at the top of the order, but should both players be unavailable Alastair Cook, Essex's 20-year-old batting star, could make a surprise debut.

Cook was called up as cover for Vaughan a week ago, and Andrew Strauss's return to England at the conclusion of the second Test - to attend the birth of his first child - means that he will remain with the side until the end of the Test series.

Vaughan, naturally, does not want his best batsman to leave the tour. "Seeing Tres go home would be an enormous blow," he said. "I hope he isn't and I hope he is available for selection."

The uncertainty about Trescothick and Vaughan is doing nothing to help England's chances of getting back into the three Test series, but they are not the only team with problems.

Roshan Mahanama, the International Cricket Council's match referee in Multan, yesterday revealed that the match officials at the first Test have reported Pakistan's Shabbir Ahmed and Shoaib Malik for having suspected illegal bowling actions.

"Both players have been reported in the past and, while it has been shown that in laboratory conditions they are capable of bowling within the legal limits, the match officials had concerns with the actions they used at certain stages of this match when viewing their actions with the naked eye," Mahanama said. "This has led the team of officials to request that the ICC commission biomechanical reports into their actions, in accordance with the process introduced earlier this year."

Under the new regulations, the bowlers have to be independently tested within 21 days of being reported. They are allowed to continue playing cricket during this period, and both Shabbir and Shoaib could play in the final two Test matches of the series.

It will be interesting to see how the Pakistan selectors react. Shabbir took 5 for 79 in the first Test and Shoaib bowled 19 useful overs of off-spin. Pakistan are entitled to play both, yet it will not be easy for either of the bowlers to bowl when they know they are being watched closely.

Shoaib, who also opens the batting, is sure to play in Faisalabad, but Pakistan may choose to protect Shabbir and replace him with Naved-ul-Hasan.

The current ICC rules allow bowlers to straighten their bowling arm by no more than 15 degrees between the time the elbow comes level with the shoulder and the moment of release.

Shabbir's bowling action was initially reported in May. The fast bowler was found to straighten his bowling arm by more than 15 degrees but, after a period of work with a bowling coach, he was retested last month. His new modified action was found to be within the limit.

The match officials were happy with the majority of deliveries Shabbir bowled, but felt that his effort ball and short ball were suspect.

* The Board of Control for Cricket in India has rejected England's request for better venues when Vaughan's team tours next March to April. The itinerary drawn up has Tests in Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Mumbai and seven one-day matches in Goa, Indore, Guwahati, Faridabad, Cuttack, Kochi and Visakhapatnam. England, although satisfied with Mumbai, preferred to play the other matches in traditional centres, but Gautam Dasgupta, the board's joint secretary, said it was a policy to rotate international matches among the 21 venues across the country.