Anderson flies home to get fit for World Cup

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The Independent Online

James Anderson will return home from Australia in an attempt to ensure that he will be fit for the World Cup. The fast bowler was the pick of England's bowlers during the triangular one-day series before injuring his back in the team's defeat to New Zealand 11 days ago.

He has not played since then, but it was hoped that the 24-year-old would be fit to play in this morning's crucial match against Australia but, with the World Cup looming and uncertainty over England's squad growing, caution has been shown.

"I'm obviously gutted to be going home, but at the same time I can understand why," he said. "It is important for me to be fit to play a part in the World Cup.

"It is a precautionary measure to ensure that I am fit for the entire tournament. If I'm honest, I don't really feel any pain at the moment and if it was the World Cup final tomorrow I'd definitely play."

On his return to England, Anderson will be set a programme to get him fit for the tournament which starts in the Caribbean in early March. He is one of the few players that, fitness permitting, is certain of a place. His departure will affect England's slim chances of qualifying for the finals against Australia but it highlights his value.

Anderson sustained a stress fracture to his back during England's tour of India in 2006, an injury that prevented him from playing first-class cricket until the final few weeks of the summer. Anderson's selection for the Ashes came as a surprise but he appeared to be returning to his best form prior to the setback.

Michael Vaughan missed this morning's encounter, too, and there must be doubts over whether it is worthwhile playing him in Tuesday's game against New Zealand if England lose to Australia today. In an attempt to recover from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of England's last five matches, Vaughan could jeopardise his place in the World Cup. England are desperate to finish their tour of Australia off on a positive note but playing Vaughan is a risk they would be foolish to take.

Australia have reacted proudly to the criticism of sledging aimed at them by Lou Vincent, the New Zealand opening batsman. Vincent has scored 66 and 76 since replacing the recently retired Nathan Astle in the Black Caps side. Vincent said: "They think they are bigger than the game and it is about standing up to them, They hunt like a pack of dogs."

In reply Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, said: "I want my guys to be ultra competitive. That's what it is like to play for Australia, and I'm sure it's the same for New Zealand. We've just played really hard, intensive cricket right through the summer. Everything we have done has been played within the spirit of the game and we've just been able to impose ourselves on the other teams.

"We try to create an uncomfortable environment in the field for the opposition - that's the best way to put it. We like them to feel under pressure when they come out to bat against us. It creates doubt."

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