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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 13:53 GMT
England unlikely to opt for Cook
Alastair Cook
Cook has been biding his time in the nets
Alastair Cook has only an "outside chance" of replacing Andrew Strauss in England's team for the third Test, according to coach Duncan Fletcher.

Strauss is returning home for the birth of his first child leaving a gap of he top of the batting order.

It is likely to be filled by either skipper Michael Vaughan or Ian Bell.

"We want to level the series and to do that you need the experience of players who have played Test cricket before," Fletcher told the BBC.

"You also need players who have had a knock out here in a match situation and Alastair Cook hasn't."

If Vaughan or Bell goes in first with Marcus Trescothick, Paul Collingwood would return to the middle order after being left out for the drawn second Test in Faisalabad.

England also have a dilemma over the make-up of their bowling attack.

They have opted to field two spinners, Ashley Giles and Shaun Udal, in both Tests so far, but they have taken only five wickets between them at a combined cost of 432 runs.

Fletcher said he was surprised spin had not had more of an impact on the series so far.

Liam Plunkett
Liam Plunkett made a good impression early in the tour

"We really thought that wicket (in Faisalabad) needed two spinners. Even Pakistan picked two spinners - they're wrist spinners and they struggled, although they got a little bit more turn than us.

"We're really going to have to think about going in with four seamers again."

If England do opt for an extra paceman, it would mean James Anderson or uncapped Liam Plunkett coming into the side.

They have only played once on tour against a Patron's XI at Rawalpindi and although Anderson took three wickets on the opening day, he was out-bowled by Plunkett, who had match figures of 7-57.

Also in Plunkett's favour is that he is more of a hit the deck bowler like Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison than Anderson, who relies more on swing to pick up wickets.

The third Test begins at the Gadaffi Stadium on Tuesday and England must win to avoid their first series defeat since the tour to Sri Lanka in December 2003.

Interview: England coach Duncan Fletcher


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