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Flintoff leaves England with ODI chaos

If the all-rounder is ruled out, coach Fletcher will have some tricky decisions to make ahead of the one-dayers with Lanka.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2006 14:05 IST

Andrew Flintoff's latest ankle injury has left England coach Duncan Fletcher with a problem he admitted he is struggling to solve ahead of the upcoming one-day series with Sri Lanka.

England were due to announce their squad for the five-match encounter on Wednesday but that has now been delayed by at least 24 hours.

Flintoff underwent a scan on his injured left ankle on Sunday, having bowled in pain and at reduced pace during Sri Lanka's second innings of the third and final Test, a match the tourists went on to win by 134 runs at Trent Bridge on Monday to square that series at 1-1.

If the all-rounder is ruled out and, with regular skipper Michael Vaughan seemingly not yet fit for international cricket following a comeback from a knee problem, Fletcher will have some tricky decisions.

"It has got to be a concern because he is such a major player for us; also he helps get the balance of the side right," said Fletcher.

"When it comes to the one-dayers I have sat for two days with (assistant coach) Matthew Maynard and a few of the players thinking about how we can balance the side.

"How do we add five players to the squad which allow us batting depth and still have quality bowlers who can knock sides over," the former Zimbabwe captain added. "If he (Flintoff) plays it's a bonus."

If both Vaughan and Flintoff were ruled out then batsman Andrew Strauss would be the most likely candidate to become captain, after stepping in during the one-day series during England's (northern hemisphere) winter tour of India.

"When you sit down and pick the squad that has all got to come into consideration," said Fletcher.

"We have also got to have a look at whether Fred (Flintoff) can play just as a batter."

Vaughan, 31, has made a cautious return to county action with Yorkshire this season, following knee surgery in December.

But, after discussions with Fletcher, he will not be rushed back as he was for the start of the Indian tour.

"He wants to make sure he is 100 percent fit, he doesn't want to let the team down again so we are going to leave it open for him," Fletcher said of Ashes-winning skipper Vaughan.

"If he feels right we can pull him in at the back end of the series."

The Test defeat at Trent Bridge also left batsman Kevin Pietersen with  a slight hamstring tear and all-rounder Paul Collingwood a sore rib.

England used just a dozen players in five Tests while regaining the Ashes from Australia last year.

But this season has seen them hit by several injury problems with fast bowlers Stephen Harmison (shin), Simon Jones (knee) and James Anderson (back) all sidelined, while left-arm spinner Ashley Giles (hip/hernia) has also been out of action.

"From our point of view we have been re-developing the squad since we got to Pakistan, in both one-dayers and Test matches," Fletcher added.

"When we developed a squad to win the Ashes all under the age of 30 we thought 'here we go, there are four years of cricket left in this team, let's build on that'.

"But we have ended up with four or five players missing all the time."

England great Geoffrey Boycott has warned the current team they must improve their 'indifferent' form if they want to retain the Ashes when they travel to Australia later this year.

But Fletcher is taking heart from the way England, soundly beaten at Lord's in last year's first Ashes Test, came back against Australia.

"We took quite a big knock from that," Fletcher said. "With a young side you have to be patient: they are learning their roles, gaining that experience.

"Look at the case of Simon Jones. People were wondering what we were doing with him in the side but by the end of the Ashes we had a world-beater.

"It took us time to develop as it does with young players."

The one-day series starts at Lord's on June 17 with the other matches at The Oval (June 20), Riverside (June 24), Old Trafford (June 28) and Headingley (July 1).