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Vaughan injury upsets England's Kiwi plans

PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, London
May 19, 2004 03:31 PM IST

Michael Vaughan's knee injury has left England with a potentially tricky problem to solve ahead of Thursday's first Test against New Zealand at Lord's.

Michael Vaughan's knee injury has left England with a potentially tricky problem to solve ahead of Thursday's first Test against New Zealand at Lord's, just when it looked like it was the tourists who had all the fitness worries.

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England captain Vaughan's twisted right knee, sustained in freakish fashion Monday while batting in the Lord's nets, means England are contemplating a new opening partner for Marcus Trescothick and a new skipper too unless the Yorkshire batsman makes a remarkable recovery.

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However, the prognosis for the 29-year-old strokeplayer is not encouraging with England's medical officer rating Vaughan a "serious doubt" for Thursday's match.

Vaughan himself has, however, not yet given up hope of carrying on from where he left off following England's 3-0 Test series win in the Caribbean last month.

"You can never say never and I'll be giving myself every chance to try and get the knee right in time for the Test."

England have two options if Vaughan drops out for the opening match of a three Test series.

They can either hand a Test debut to Middlesex captain Andrew Strauss, who impressed during England's one-day series in the Caribbean, or restore regular number three Mark Butcher to his former opening role and play all-rounder Paul Collingwood.

Surrey left-hander Butcher for one would prefer to stay where he is, saying Tuesday: "I just feel happier at number three now although obviously I would do whatever is wanted."

Strauss, also a left-hander, who knows Lord's well because it is Middlesex's home ground, said: "It's not an ideal situation. I'd prefer to know one way or the other but I know Lord's well and it would be a dream place to make my debut."

There are several candidates for the Test captaincy if Vaughan is unfit with regular stand-in Trescothick the most obvious option although the selectors could chose former skipper Nasser Hussain.

Butcher, who stood in for Hussain when the latter was injured during the last home series against New Zealand in 1999 which the Kiwis won 2-1 is another option.

Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming has recovered from a hip problem and is set to open in a Test match for the first time while fellow experienced batsman Nathan Astle takes the skipper's number three spot in his first Test since October following knee surgery.

One consolation for England is that they will not be facing fast bowler Shane Bond, who is still regaining full fitness following a stress fracture of the back.

But New Zealand coach John Bracewell ruled Bond out at the weekend and stole a march on England here Tuesday by naming a side with several all-rounders and eight Test centurions 48 hours in advance.

New Zealand lost their final warm-up match by nine wickets against Kent but for middle-order batsman Craig McMillan that reverse was an encouraging omen.

"It's got a bit of an eerie feeling. A lot of stuff that's happening now happened in 1999 which is very positive for us.

"We didn't perform well in the early county games, we got beaten by Kent again but come the Test series we performed very well, Hopefully this tour will follow a similar path."

Members of both teams have talked of an evenly matched contest, something confirmed by the ICC's latest Test table which has England in third place on 103 points and New Zealand just two points behind in fifth.

A drawn series would keep England where they are now but a New Zealand victory would see them take third place.

"We are very similar," said Hussain. "I've always felt playing against New Zealand is like playing a mirror image of ourselves."

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