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February 24, 2006
England will not be asking for immediate replacements ahead of next week's Test series against India despite the 16-man touring squad being plagued with injuries and illness. Michael Vaughan, the England captain, was given a cortisone injection to speed up the recovery of a recurring knee injury in time for the first of three back-to-back Tests starting in Nagpur on March 1.
Kevin Pietersen is suffering from a back strain, Simon Jones and Shaun Udal, the offspinner, are recovering from stomach bugs while Paul Collingwood has been afflicted with a back spasm.
With just five days to go for the first Test, England are in danger of not being able to field 11 fit men, but coach Duncan Fletcher refused to panic. "We can't make a decision over replacements just yet, we have to give it some more time," Fletcher said. "Simon Jones could wake up and be fine in two days, while if the injection works, Vaughan could be alright by next week. We'll just have to fiddle things about for the moment."
Vaughan remains in serious doubt for the first Test, just as he was in Pakistan late last year when the knee injury flared up in a practice match at the start of the tour. He missed the one-dayers in Pakistan to have his third surgery in six years on his right knee in December. He was forced to sit out of the ongoing three-day match against the Indian Board President's XI at Vadodara and Peter Gregory, the team doctor, hoped the cortisone injection will work.
"It's got to be a concern when your captain can't play in the match before the first Test, but he has a chance for next week," Gregory said. "A jab normally starts to work after 48 hours, but you can't expect the full effect for about two weeks."
Pietersen retired hurt for 47 after injuring his back on Thursday despite being strapped up on the field by team physiotherapist Kirk Russell. "He just tweaked it and we took him off as a precautionary measure," said Fletcher. "I hope it gets better in the next couple of days. We wanted to make sure it didn't get any worse before the first Test."
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