Vaughan set to miss defence of the Ashes

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan is expected to have surgery at the end of the week in an attempt to correct the chronic knee condition that threatens his career. Tomorrow, Vaughan, the England captain, will seek a second opinion from a specialist in the north of England, where a decision on the type of operation he has will be made.

Vaughan has two options. He can either have the joint cleaned out - surgery that will keep him out of action for eight to 10 weeks - or he can go through the more complicated procedure of having the affected area resurfaced with cartilage. This alternative could rule him out for nine months.

Whatever option is taken, Vaughan is unlikely to be fit enough to lead England in Australia this winter. Defending the Ashes would be a huge moment in his career but it is currently the least of his worries. The 31-year-old has not played for England since injuring his knee on the pre-Christmas tour of Pakistan and a long-term fix should be placed ahead of a short-term patch-up.

Vaughan's misery will have done little to raise the morale of an England side short of confidence and form. The England football team have been criticised for playing ugly football, but the cricket side could not care less how they win today's fourth NatWest Series encounter at Old Trafford, as long as they do. After losing five consecutive matches to Sri Lanka, England's self-esteem must be as low as at any time since Duncan Fletcher became head coach in 1999.

With the NatWest Series trophy lost, England need to end this dreadful run of results before it begins to have an adverse effect on their Test form. Pakistan have landed, and their strong and highly talented squad are sure to provide the hosts with a far sterner test than their Asian neighbours in the coming weeks.

"The results of the next two games will have an effect on the Test series against Pakistan," admitted Marcus Trescothick. "It is something we need to be wary of. The two games [Test and one-day cricket] are not totally independent because you have players in this team who play in the Test side too. We cannot let the run of defeats go on otherwise it will blend its way into our Test cricket."

England could well be without Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood as they search for a couple of consolation wins. Pietersen had a scan on his bruised left knee on Sunday and no structural damage was found, and Collingwood continues to battle with a thigh strain. If the series were still alive both would play, but there seems little point now.

Their absence should give Alastair Cook his one-day debut, and the recalled Vikram Solanki an unexpected opportunity to stake a late World Cup claim. England will also contemplate making changes to their wayward bowling attack.

England (from): A J Strauss (Middlesex, capt), M E Trescothick (Somerset), I R Bell (Warwickshire), K P Pietersen (Hampshire), P D Collingwood (Durham), J W M Dalrymple (Middlesex), G O Jones (Kent, wkt), T T Bresnan (Yorkshire), L E Plunkett (Durham), S I Mahmood (Lancashire), S J Harmison (Durham), A N Cook (Essex), A G R Loudon (Warwickshire), Kabir Ali (Worcestershire), V S Solanki (Worcestershire).

Sri Lanka (from): M Jayawardene (capt), S T Jayasuriya, W U Tharanga, T M Dilshan, K C Sangakkara (wkt), R P Arnold, C K Kapugedera, W P U C J Vaas, M J Maharoof, S L Malinga, C R D Fernando, P D R L Perera, C M Bandara.

Umpires: B R Doctrove (WI) & N J Llong.