Bell latest England casualty; Watson out for Oz

Updated on Nov 22, 2006 08:21 PM IST

Bell was hit on the left wrist while batting in the nets against seamer Anderson, just two days before the start of the first Ashes Test.

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None | ByAssociated Press, Brisbane

Just hours after England was buoyed by the arrival of former cricket captain Michael Vaughan, the visitors were hit with another injury scare - this time a wrist ailment to Ian Bell.

Bell was hit on the left wrist while batting in the nets against seamer James Anderson at the Gabba on Tuesday, just two days before the start of the first Ashes Test against Australia.

"He's had ice treatment and will have a precautionary x-ray," a team spokesman said. The x-ray later revealed no break but heavy bruising. He will undergo further treatment and be reassessed Wednesday by team medical officials.

On the Australian injury front, team officials announced Tuesday that allrounder Shane Watson's hamstring strain would keep him out of the first Test. He will be replaced by Michael Clarke, who was drafted into the team last week as cover following Watson's injury.

"He (Watson) has been working hard over the last couple of days to be fit, but it became clear during this afternoon's training session that he would not be fit to start the match," said team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.

"He will continue his rehabilitation program with a view to being fit for the second Test."

England opener Andrew Strauss admitted losing Bell would be critical to the side as it begins defense of the Ashes series it won back from Australia last year.

"It would be a blow, but we're talking hypothetical right now," Strauss said after England had its first workout at the Gabba, venue for the series opener. "The more I see, I don't think it's going to prevent him from playing. We're very hopeful he'll be able to play."

Middlesex batsman Ed Joyce could be Bell's replacement, but Joyce only arrived last Friday as a replacement for Marcus Trescothick, who returned to England after a recurrence of a stress-related illness.

Fast bowler Steve Harmison had to be left out of the England lineup for a tour match against South Australia state due to a side strain. But Harmison has worked out positively in the nets and is expected to be fit by Thursday.

Vaughan's arrival on Tuesday in Brisbane helped lift England's spirits - not to mention the advice he can impart to the side, says Strauss.

"It would be stupid for us not to use his knowledge," Strauss said. "He was an instrumental factor in us winning the Ashes the last time around.

"He's got some pretty forthright views as to how best play against Australia, and we'll be chatting to him in the next day or two."

Although Vaughan was originally thought to be out for the series due to knee surgery - which could possibly end his career - he's now thought to be under consideration to play in the third Test in Perth in early December.

Strauss cautioned against building up Vaughan's return to the England lineup, or what England might do with the captaincy if he did. Andrew Flintoff was named captain for the Ashes series in Vaughan's absence.

"The main reason he's over here is for his own recuperation," Strauss said of Vaughan. "I don't think there is going to be a firm timetable, just a lot of work, and testing on his knee before he can even say he's ready."

On any change of captaincy, Strauss said, "It's just not something that has come up. I suppose it will only come up in the weeks ahead."

Strauss left little doubt that England was looking forward to the first ball being bowled on Thursday to start the five-Test series - the most eagerly anticipated set of cricket matches in years. "There are a million reasons why," Strauss replied when asked about the allure of the series.

"The history of the Ashes and the way both countries embrace them. The fact that it's the top two teams in the world adds extra spice."

"We know we're going to have a massive following. That's why we can't wait to get out there."

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