Cricket: Coach Flower will decide on Collingwood fitness after dislocated finger

ENGLAND are prepared to take a firm line with Paul Collingwood if they are not convinced he is fit to play in tomorrow's third cricket Test.

Collingwood was due for a fitness check and net session this afternoon to decide whether his dislocated left index finger has healed sufficiently for him to face South Africa at Newlands.

But coach Andy Flower will eschew the normal protocol of allowing the man himself to decide on his fitness to save Collingwood the temptation of taking an undue risk.

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Flower said: "He'd probably say anything to play. He is desperate to play."

Should Collingwood fail to recover, Michael Carberry has emerged as favourite to make his debut, with England one up in the series with two to play.

Uncapped all-rounder Luke Wright is the obvious other option to replace a player who has been in the form of his life and, after 55 Tests, has become integral to Andrew Strauss' team.

"What Collingwood has done recently is use to good effect some of the vast amount of experience he's got over the last six or seven years," added Flower.

"He's repaying England for all that investment in him."

With or without Collingwood, Flower has great belief in a team which, in successive high-profile series, have followed a nail-biting survival for a draw by taking a series lead in the next match.

"What you get from draws like that is confidence that you're working with teams of fighters," Flower said.

"That quality is vital in any competition. When the players realise they've got someone of that fighting quality standing next to them, that breeds confidence."

Consistency has been England's only problem, as they showed in the Ashes last summer when, far from taking their chance to wrap the series up early at Headingley, they fell flat on their faces with a near shambolic performance.

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Flower does not sense a repeat now, though. He said: "When we had our noses in front against Australia we were perhaps anxious for a quick victory. I don't see any anxiety to try to snatch the series in this match."