England's tour of India lurched further into dis-array yesterday as Steve Harmison was ruled out of the must-win third and final Test match starting here tomorrow.
The fast bowler missed the tourists' net session at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday and an X-ray on his right shin highlighted 'bone stress' in the area.
England will be without five of the team that played a part in regaining the Ashes last summer. Captain Michael Vaughan, Ashley Giles and Simon Jones are recuperating from injury while Marcus Trescothick is absent for personal reasons.
An England spokesman said of Harmison's injury: "We are seeking further medical opinion from the United Kingdom to obtain an updated prognosis tomorrow."
The end of Harmison's 28 consecutive Test appearances, spanning two years, further dents hopes of salvaging something from the series. He aggravated the shin in the nine-wicket defeat in Mohali which secured a 1-0 lead for India.
Despite the latest setback, however, captain Andrew Flintoff refused to lose the belief that England can avert a seventh Test in a row without victory. "If you don't have a player like Steve Harmison of course it's a blow," he said. "But we just want to win this Test match. The side playing out here has been different through many circumstances and we have done well on the whole.
"The effort we have put in so far, I don't think we deserve to be going home after losing a Test series.
"It is a must-win game for us and we want to draw this series, we deserve to do that and we can do that.
"It would be a massive achievement for the team; we have got some new caps, inexperienced players, and if we could beat the Indian side with all their experience it would be a monumental effort.
"We have shown signs over the past two matches we could possibly do that.
"For five days we need to get it right, come together and show the same enthusiasm, character and ability we have done for patches in these last two Tests."
England were considering recalling off-spinner Shaun Udal or Ian Blackwell in place of Liam Plunkett in the number eight position due to Mumbai's history of aiding the spinners. Two of the three could play, however, while James Anderson may also come into the selection equation.
Whoever forms England's attack will be faced with the conundrum which has proved so problematic to date in the series: how to dismiss Rahul Dravid.
India's captain wins his 100th cap this weekend, having already spent 14-and-three-quarter hours at the crease in two matches.
Flintoff said: "His nickname is 'the Wall' and he does take some getting past doesn't he? He is a great example of how to play.
"He goes out there and the tempo of his innings does not change throughout the entire stay. He loves batting and goes on and on and on doing it."
Without the collapse on the fourth evening of the second Test, during which they lost five wickets, England would arguably be heading into this contest on level terms.
Despite victory being a necessity, if it miraculously arrives, Flintoff believes it will be through a patient approach. He said: "We are positive in the way we play, that is for sure. But I don't think you need to force the game too much on the sub-continent. It is more of a war of attrition, the game is a lot slower, not like England where the ball is flying everywhere and the scoring rate is four or five runs an over.
"You have to sit in for long periods of time both with bat and ball and try to nick a result on the last day.
"We will not change our gameplan, we just need to do the simple things correctly, which we have done for periods of time; we just need to extend those periods."