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England team suffers blow

Freddie finds himself in the hot seat after Michael Vaughan too is ruled out with knee injury

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 03:36 IST
G Krishnan

The already-beleaguered England team suffered its worst blow since arriving in India two weeks back when its captain Michael Vaughan was ruled out of the Test series following a right knee injury. “Vaughan is ruled out of the Test series and will return home immediately,” said England Media Relations Manager, Andrew Walpole here on Monday.

Vaughan's absence will now officially mean that all-rounder Andrew Flintoff will go out for toss with Rahul Dravid for the Tests. Flintoff, hours after being named the skipper, said that he was staying back for the entire Test series and not abandoning the third Test in Mumbai (March 18-22), as planned earlier, to be with his wife at the time of delivery of their second child which is slated around that time.

No replacement is being called for Vaughan as England have already called batsmen Alastair Cook and Owais Shah, and fast bowler James Anderson from their ‘A’ tour of the West Indies.

Vaughan, who played in the three-day warm-up match against the CCI President's XI in Mumbai a week ago, missed the first-class tour game against the Board President's XI because of the knee injury that has been troubling him since late last year.

Vaughan's availability for the first Test starting here on Wednesday was based on the fitness test he had to undergo on Monday morning.

At the nets, there was neither a running session nor the other drills that are usually associated with the conduct of a fitness test. Vaughan had a light session with the bat and did not go all out as did the other batsmen. That was enough indication that all was not well with his knee.

The 31-year-old Yorkshireman has not been ruled out of the entire tour, though. “It is too early to say if he would return for the seven-match one-day series (which begins on March 31)," said Walpole.

Later, when pressed by the English scribes, Walpole said: "He is ruled out of this Test. He is not ruled out of the entire tour, though."

Vaughan's departure has seriously dented English hopes even before the first ball of the Test series is bowled. His withdrawal leaves the tourists without two of the most experienced batsmen following the pull-out due to "personal reasons" of vice-captain Michael Trescothick.

Vaughan missed the first Test against Pakistan in November with a knee injury suffered in a warm-up game in Lahore. But he was back for the second and third Tests. He, however, missed the one-day series, returning home to consult a specialist and underwent an arthroscopic assessment.

Simon Jones too ruled out

England are now struggling to put together a fit unit and their injury woes took another serious turn when reverse swing exponent Simon Jones twisted his left knee during practice on Monday and was ruled out of the opening Test.

Jones fell in his follow-through and struggled to walk. He was taken immediately for a scan which revealed a minor cartilage damage to his left knee. He will fly home to UK on Tuesday to see a specialist.

His availability for the rest of the tour will be reassessed after he has seen the specialist.

Injuries and Simon Jones seem to be going hand-in-hand. Way back in 2002, in only his second Test against Australia in Brisbane, he damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while attempting a sliding stop in the outfield and crashing into the billboards. This left him out of action for nearly one-and-a-half years. Last year, another knee injury kept him out of the start of the NatWest tri-series featuring Bangladesh and Australia.

Recovering in time for the Ashes, he had to skip the fifth Test at The Oval following an ankle bone spur problem that kept him out of the England side until early this year. Not fully fit, the 27-year-old speedster from Glamorgan was getting back to shape by bowling off a slow pace in the warm-up match at Brabourne.

Things have not been going well for the Englishmen since they landed in Mumbai on February 13.

Marcus Trescothick had flu, Liam Plunkett and Matthew Prior had stomach bugs, Paul Collingwood had back spasms, all during the game against CCI, while Kevin Pietersen (back strain), Shaun Udal and Simon Jones (upset stomach) needed medical attention during the three-day game against Baroda, as did Plunkett, who had a bruised heel.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 03:36 IST