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England wait on injury doubts

England's plans were put on hold today while injured batsmen Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell waited to discover whether they will miss tomorrow's opening Twenty20 international at The Oval.

But the home team's problems look minor compared with those of the West Indies, who have lurched from one crisis to another on a tour that has so far outstripped even the gloomiest prediction made a couple of months ago.

Trott, the South Africa-born player hoping to make his England debut this week, and Warwickshire team-mate Bell are being treated for hand and groin injuries respectively.

The West Indies, though, are reeling from another bout of self-inflicted damage.

They returned to London last night with a welcome 56-run victory under their belts but most of the talk during their gentle warm-up game in Arundel was about a clear threat from on high to sack one-day skipper Chris Gayle.

Last week, opener Gayle stoked up what has been a simmering row between players and West Indies Cricket Board officials by criticising the on-off-on saga of his appointment as captain for the limited-overs leg of this trip.

He also tore a strip off them for failing to get three new recruits to Worcester in time for a match against the England second team.

Gayle's remarks, which appeared in his on-line diary, were apparently seen and cleared by tour manager Mike Findlay before being made public. But now Gayle has been reprimanded by WICB president Ken Gordon for his "totally unacceptable conduct".

The batsman was urged to apologise but refused to do so and the WICB now say the matter will be reexamined at the end of the tour. They have warned Gayle, however, to avoid "any further statement or behaviour that will force (the board) to take drastic and immediate action against him."

By that, Gordon can only mean firing a man who was just about the only captaincy candidate left on tour when Ramnaresh Sarwan damaged his shoulder and Test match stand-in Daren Ganga lost form so completely that even Gordon and Co were forced to accept he could not carry on for the one-dayers.

The West Indies were so awful in losing a Twenty20 game to Derbyshire last weekend that it looked as though they had given up hope of achieving anything positive in England.

But at least they showed some real purpose with bat and ball yesterday, against an admittedly weak PCA Masters XI containing a mixture of county cricketers and retired internationals like Robin Smith and Dean Headley.

With players such as Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Fidel Edwards in their side, the West Indies should be at least a match for England in this week's two Twenty20 games at The Oval and next week's three full internationals.

"I'm sure we can end the tour strongly," said Gayle. "I think one-day cricket is what we play best at the moment and, hopefully, we can finish this series on top."

England have plenty of incentive, too, to finish with a flourish after winning three Tests and drawing the other.

And at least their new limited overs captain Paul Collingwood, has not been threatened with the sack before a ball is bowled.

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