|Ground:||Old Trafford, Manchester|
|Player:||AJ Strauss, MP Vaughan, A Flintoff, SP Jones, AF Giles|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 27th July 2006
England captain Andrew Strauss insisted on Wednesday his team was finally coming to terms with the injury crisis which has sidelined several of the side's Ashes-winning stars.
Strauss leads England in the second Test of the ongoing series with Pakistan, starting at Old Trafford here Thursday, with a very different team to the one that enjoyed a memorable draw against Australia at the Manchester venue in 2005.
England will be without Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan (knee), all-rounder Andrew Flintoff (ankle), whom they had hoped would skipper the side at his Lancashire home ground in Vaughan's absence, as well as bowlers Simon Jones (knee) and spinner Ashley Giles (hip).
England have won just two out of 10 Test since the Ashes, a record not altogether surprising given that, in addition to all their other injury problems, they have also been without spearhead quick Stephen Harmison for some of that time because of the Durham star's shin problems.
"Because we've had a lot of problems off the pitch with injuries and stuff like that it's been harder for us to go out and believe we are going to win every Test match," Strauss told reporters at Old Trafford.
"I think now we've come to terms with those injuries a little bit, we're moving forward, and the guys who have come in have spent a bit more time in the team now as well.
"If we look back at the games we've played we haven't snatched match-winning situations a couple of times and that is vitally important," the opening batsman added.
"We might not have done that as well as we could have done in the last six or nine months. We need to get that back on track."
Having only expected to captain the team in the drawn series opener at Lord's, where he scored a century, Strauss now finds himself in charge for the whole of the Pakistan Test series.
"These cirumstances are not ideal. But from my point of view I want to captain the side to the best of my ability and, now I've got a longer run, to try to gel the side in terms of winning this series."
And he said learning to live without Flintoff would benefit England in the end: "Sometimes you need someone as important as him not to play to show you don't need to rely on him time and time again."
Taking 20 wickets, something neither side was able to achieve at Lord's, still appears to be England's major problem heading into the second Test.
Uncapped off-spinner Jamie Dalrymple, a Middlesex team-mate of Strauss's, was released later Wednesday, leaving England with a 12-man squad.
With Monty Panesar now the lone specialist slow bowler in the party, it would appear that seamers Jon Lewis and Sajid Mahmood are involved in a straight head-to-head contest for the final place in England's XI.
"Sajid is a bit quicker and he can reverse the ball and it's his home pitch. Jon Lewis has shown time and time again the value of putting the ball in the right area," Strauss said. "It's the balance between the steady bowler and the guy that can produce something special."
Reflecting on last year's dramatic Test at Old Trafford, which saw Australia cling on for a draw with just one wicket standing after thousands of fans were locked out on the final day, Strauss said: "If you need to draw on inspiration you only have to look back at that Test match.
"The atmosphere was quite incredible. Hopefully this game will follow similar suit but we can take that tenth wicket."
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)