Pakistan v England, 4th ODI, Rawalpindi December 18, 2005

Harmison doubtful for Rawalpindi clash

Cricinfo staff

Losing Harmison would be a cruel blow to England as they seek to come back from 2-1 down against Pakistan © Getty Images
Steve Harmison has emerged as a slight doubt for England's crucial fourth one-day international against Pakistan at Rawalpindi, after missing Sunday's training session with a bout of flu.

"He's not feeling too well today and we'll be monitoring him through to tomorrow," England's coach, Duncan Fletcher, told reporters at the Pindi Stadium. "He's got a sore throat and is feeling very fluey and heavy."

For England, Harmison's absence would be a significant blow, seeing as they are already missing the services of several senior players, including Michael Vaughan, Ashley Giles and Kevin Pietersen. But Fletcher remained optimistic that his team, who are 2-1 down in the series with two matches to play, would be able to bounce back regardless.

"We've just got to play the same way we did in that first game," he added, harking back to a powerful performance at Lahore, in which England batted first and put the game beyond reach with a total of 327 for 4. "We need to show the same approach. If we win tomorrow, we'll have a slight advantage going into the last game.

"It's all about doing the basics right," added Fletcher. "We need to look to bowl in the right areas consistently, and when we bat we mustn't worry about looking for too big a score up front, and forgetting how to get there. Instead our top three batters need to lay a good platform."

Despite a record-equalling 165-run defeat at Karachi, Fletcher denied that weariness was beginning to take its toll on the team, and pointed out that their fielding drill under the Rawalpindi lights had been as eager as ever on tour.

"We said all along before we came out here, it's going to be a difficult tour," said Fletcher. "They are a very talented side, and they've played well and done their homework. We've got to make sure we put up performances like we've managed in the past."

Fletcher: 'If we play properly we can get back to 2-2' © Getty Images
Fletcher cited England's tour of India four years ago as an example of the spirit in adversity that his squads can summon. On that occasion they had been 3-1 down, but pulled level to 3-3 in a series best remembered for Andrew Flintoff whipping his shirt off and waving it around his head in celebration.

"It's going to be a difficult task," he conceded. "Winning any game is a difficult task, but if we play properly we can get back to 2-2.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, was sounding upbeat on the eve of the fixture. "Tomorrow's match is crucial for us because it could be a series decider," he told reporters. "That's the key to our success because we got good starts in the last two games."

Inzamam was still flushed with pride after his side's performance at Karachi, in which they posted a massive total of 353 for 6. "I don't think England had thought that Pakistan could perform like this" he said, having contributed a rapid 45 off 35 balls to the cause.

Inzamam did not expect any changes to his matchwinning side, but brushed aside any suggestions that the team was creeping up the rails as the 2007 World Cup draws closer.

"For me ratings count for nothing because I don't think that the favorite team has always won the World Cup," he said. "We need to perform consistently and play positive cricket to get ourselves tuned up for the World Cup."

England (probable) 1 Marcus Trescothick (capt), 2 Matt Prior, 3 Andrew Strauss, 4 Vikram Solanki, 5 Andrew Flintoff, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Geraint Jones (wk), 8 Ian Blackwell, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Steve Harmison, 11 James Anderson, 12 Ian Bell.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Salman Butt, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Shoaib Malik, 9 Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Mohammad Sami, 12 Yasir Arafat.