England v India, NatWest Series, Old Trafford August 29, 2007

England sweat on Collingwood fitness

Cricinfo staff

Paul Collingwood: laid low with a virus © Getty Images
England's preparations for tomorrow's day-night encounter with India at Old Trafford suffered a setback when their captain, Paul Collingwood, was ruled out of practice after contracting a virus.

Collingwood has led England to three wins and three defeats in his six-match tenure, including their current 2-1 lead in the seven match NatWest Series. He contracted stomach cramps overnight and was ruled out of training as a precaution, but is expected to recover in time to lead the side tomorrow.

Should Collingwood fail to recover, England's selectors would face a tricky decision regarding his stand-in. The natural choice - on his home ground - would be Andrew Flintoff, who is expected to be recalled after missing the victory at Edgbaston with a knee problem. He led England to victory in the CB Series in Australia last February, but was stripped of the vice-captaincy after a high-profile drinking session in St Lucia during the World Cup.

"I'll worry about that if it happens," said Flintoff of his captaincy prospects. "I'm fully expecting, and the lads are, Paul turning up tomorrow, tossing the coin and leading the side. At this stage it is not an issue. I'm just concentrating on me turning up tomorrow, doing what I need to this afternoon treatment-wise and turning up with a good knee and playing."

Although Flintoff is expecting to deputise if Collingwood has to leave the field for a call of nature, the management may still consider it is too soon to reinstate him, in which case the strongest remaining candidate would be Kevin Pietersen, who has been increasingly influential on the field this summer.

"I just try to help out as much as I can," said Pietersen yesterday. "Colly likes the help. We read off a similar script so it's nice - we chuck things at each other. I wouldn't say I'm vice-captain or anything like that but we do spend quite a lot of time talking and we get on really well. It's working at the moment and long may it continue."

England's other injury concern is Dimitri Mascarenhas, who starred in defeat at Bristol but missed the Edgbaston match after sustaining a hand injury in the pre-match warm-up. He will undergo a late fitness test.