Australia lose Kasprowicz after back injury flares up

While the bulk of England's collection of ailing bowlers are finally up and running in again, albeit gingerly, Australia yesterday lost Michael Kasprowicz, a possible member of their pace attack for the Ashes, to injury.

The 34-year-old, who was part of Australia's Ashes campaign last year and was in the running for the third seamer's position in the Test team behind Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee, looks like missing the entire series because of a recurrence of a chronic back injury.

The selectors will now be hoping Stuart Clark recovers from a thigh injury, but will also be considering Jason Gillespie, who was dropped during last summer's Ashes because of a loss of form, and the youngsters Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson.

"It's proving a little bit hard to handle at the moment as far as pain," Kasprowicz said. "The timing [of a return] at this stage we don't know. The doctors are still investigating what it is and how to fix it."

Kasprowicz praised the left-arm Johnson, a favourite of former Test bowlers Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, to take the third seamer's place. "Mitchell provides a point of difference to that attack too, being left arm, being fast and he swings it," he said. "That's something exciting that he brings to the attack."

In England's camp, Kevin Pietersen is eager to maintain a level of bonhomie with the Australians despite demands from Down Under for a more ruthless edge from the home side. Pietersen is close friends with Shane Warne and yesterday he said: "That's what created such a buzz about cricket again because everybody was so hard on the field and shared a beer off the field in the last Ashes.

"The sportsmanship between the two teams was amazing. Everybody went out and played for their country. Warney got 40 wickets and I got runs - it didn't affect performances. Hopefully, this series will be exactly the same."

First comes the Champions Trophy in India and Steve Harmison was making positive noises about the limited-overs format yesterday. "I quite like the challenge of the one-day game," he said. "Hopefully, we have got five one-dayers here. The first three are going to give us the chance to put a few things right."

Who will win third seamer's spot?

* STUART CLARK Similar to McGrath. Performed excellently in tour of South Africa taking 21 wickets but is 31. Favourite.

* JASON GILLESPIE One half of Australia's most successful opening Test attack but was off colour last summer and has lost a yard of pace. Next in line.

* SHAUN TAIT Searing pace but failed to take his chance in Oval Test last year when he sprayed it like champagne. Outsider.

* MITCHELL JOHNSON Tall, rapid, left arm. Got Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh in one-dayer. Lacks first-class experience. Worth a punt.

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