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November 17, 2005
Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, has insisted that Michael Vaughan's fate is in his own hands as he continues to recuperate after the knee injury he suffered while batting at Bagh-e-Jinnah in Lahore last week. Vaughan, who missed England's defeat in the first Test at Multan, was put through his paces in the nets at Faisalabad today, leaving Fletcher trusting in his captain's professionalism.
"If he wants to play he can play," Fletcher told reporters at the team hotel in Faisalabad. "We can't be absolutely confident, because he's had this knee problem before, but he's got to live with it. He gave himself a good test today which was good to see, but we'll be keen to monitor it over the next couple of days."
Much as England would want their captain to return to shore up a brittle middle-order, the news that Marcus Trescothick will be staying with the tour, and not returning home to attend to a family incident, could persuade the England thinktank to take a more prudent approach. Trescothick's father-in-law fell off a ladder and sustained serious head injuries earlier this week, but his condition is now said to be stable.
"From our point of view, Marcus is a world-class player who averages over 40 and is batting as well as he ever has, so it's great news he's staying on," said Fletcher. "Having lost Simon Jones [before the tour began], to miss another quality player would have been a big problem."
If there were any concerns that Trescothick would not be able to focus on the job at hand, then Fletcher brushed them aside. "He got the news while playing [in the first Test], and it didn't seem to affect him. It was more serious at that time and it would have been a shock to him. But he went out, captained the side very well, kept the energy levels up, and it never looked a problem. Hopefully he can adjust to that when this Test starts."
England could do without such speculation about two of their key players, as they look to regroup after their shock defeat in the first Test. Fletcher refused to speculate on the balance of the side until he had had a proper look at the wicket - which at present is covered in grass clippings to prevent any cracks appearing too soon - but he commended his squad's intensity during their first practice session since the Multan defeat.
As to that disastrous final morning, in which England lost their last nine wickets for 111, Fletcher conceded: "We probably needed a little more patience, because the opposition were allowed to bowl well for a period of time. But it's a fine line. We don't want to become too patient and get bogged down, because our players are instinctive players to some degree.
"But you've got to be a little careful," Fletcher added. "The thing about Test cricket is that you can play well for four days then get into trouble in just one hour. You've got to make sure you focus for every session of five days. But they've all done it before, and all our players work for their runs. It's just a matter of reading the situation and playing that situation."
Of England's middle-order, Kevin Pietersen - with a highest score of 19 in six innings on tour - is the man under the most scrutiny, but Fletcher backed him to come good soon enough. "You could say he was a bit of a worry before the Oval Test, but then he got a big hundred. It's only been one Test. We expect him to get runs in this Test match, because he's the type of player who can hit a rich run of form."
As to whether England could bounce back with victory in their next Test, as they have done in every one of their four previous Test defeats of the Vaughan era, Fletcher was guarded. "I'm confident but that's no guarantee," he said. "We've started well and finished badly, we've started badly and finished well, we've started well and finished well, and we've started badly and finished badly. We've been right through them all, so from our point of view we've done it before, and we hope we'll do it again."
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