Vaughan unlikely to return to Pakistan

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The Independent Online

England will be hoping to make a final decision on the fitness of Michael Vaughan today. The captain returned home to attend the birth of his second child after England's Test series defeat in Pakistan, and yesterday he visited a specialist for a diagnosis on his troublesome right knee.

Vaughan wants to return to Pakistan to play in the pre-Christmas one-day series, but he will only do so if he is given the all-clear by the specialist. David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors stated that Vaughan's chances were "in the balance" and it is unlikely that he will return.

Surgery is a possibility, as is advice to give the joint a decent rest. Both would keep him at home. Vaughan played in the second and third Tests against Pakistan with the knee strapped and still looked in discomfort every time he was asked to make a sudden movement.

England need their charismatic captain for what is sure to be a tough fortnight, but there is little point in Vaughan risking long-term damage in order to play in these five games. England have virtually 19 months of non-stop cricket from March 2006 and Vaughan would be wise to use this period to sort out the problem.

The uncertainty over Vaughan's return is not helping the team's preparations. Players hate indecision and England's plans in Pakistan have been hampered enough by the constant coming and going of players. It is time to move on.

While England continue to wait on the availability of their captain, Andrew Strauss will rejoin the squad at lunchtime today. Strauss returned home to attend the birth of his first child, Samuel David, who arrived safely at 11pm on Sunday.

Despite jet lag and couple of sleepless nights Strauss will be keen to play in tomorrow's warm up game at the Bagh-e-Jinnah ground in Lahore against Pakistan A. England, however, are looking to rest Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison.

In Vaughan's absence, Marcus Trescothick will take charge, and England's stand-in captain is confident his side can put Saturday's embarrassing defeat behind them.

"Who we rest on Wednesday may depend on injuries," Trescothick said. "A couple of players got hit by Shoaib [Akhtar] on the last day of the Test and we'll see how they come through."

It is eight years since England last won a one-day tournament, or a series of one-day matches against a major Test-playing nation, while abroad. Trescothick was keen to stress the importance of addressing this problem before the 2007 World Cup.

"It is important we start winning abroad because we are now only 18 months away from the World Cup," he said. "Obviously, we are a little bit depleted here because of injury but the base of the team is there. These will probably be similar conditions to those we will encounter in the World Cup. The pitches will, in general, be flat and slow and we know we need to perform. We missed out in the Test series and it is important we play well here."

Through resting Flintoff and Harmison, England will give James Anderson the chance to remind the selectors that he is still on tour. Wednesday's match might be a gentle warm-up for those who expect to play in front of 30,000 spectators at the Gaddafi Stadium on Saturday but it is a crucial game for Anderson.

In the last 12 months Anderson has watched Simon Jones and Liam Plunkett go past him in the Test pecking order and there is a danger that Plunkett and Kabir Ali may do the same in one-day cricket. He needs to show what he can do.

England (probable v Pakistan A, Lahore, tomorrow: M E Trescothick (capt), A J Strauss, V S Solanki, K Pietersen, P D Collingwood, M J Prior, G O Jones (wkt), I Blackwell, Kabir Ali, L Plunkett, J Anderson.

* India recovered to 90 for 2 against Sri Lanka in Madras after play finally got under way on the fourth day of the first Test yesterday . Chaminda Vaas removed both openers, Gautam Gambhir for 0, and Virender Sehwag for a rapid 36.

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