Stuart Broad looks set to be named in England's 15-man World Cup squad after being rushed here for the finals of the Commonwealth Bank Series. Broad, the 20-year-old Leicestershire fast bowler, will replace counterparts Jon Lewis and Chris Tremlett, who are due to return home from Australia today, and he could yet play against the world champions in front of 80,000 fans tomorrow.
Lewis is struggling to overcome the ankle injury he picked up during England's first game in Adelaide a fortnight ago, while Tremlett has a back problem. Lewis is expected to be fit for the World Cup which starts in a month's time, but he may find his place taken by Broad should the young paceman impress.
Broad flew in from the MRF Dennis Lillee Fast Bowling Academy in Chennai. Lillee was not at the academy, he was playing beach cricket with Darren Gough in Australia, but the centre contains many good bowling coaches.
Broad's talents were identified last summer when he played in five one-day internationals against Pakistan. He showed promise but was overlooked for the Ashes by the selectors, who have been keen to nurture his development rather than expose him to the heat and hostility of Australia.
The one-day retirement of Stephen Harmison, injuries to James Anderson and Lewis, and the inconsistency of Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood have thrown Broad to the front of the selectors' thoughts. Stuart is like his father Chris, the former England opener, in that he has a slightly stubborn and fiery side to him. It is good to see. And these traits, along with a 6ft 6in frame and huge potential, could see him develop into a fine fast bowler in the next couple of years.
England have other injury concerns as they prepare for tomorrow's first final with the most important being that of Michael Vaughan, who has aggravated the hamstring injury he picked up in Hobart three weeks ago. The 32-year-old is attempting to play down the setback and is desperate to play at the MCG, but he must realise that by playing he could be risking participation in the World Cup.
"We will check Vaughan at practice," said Duncan Fletcher, the England coach. "He felt it go a bit in Brisbane but Dean Conway [England's physiotherapist] wants to be sure that it is not a problem that surfaces when you have come back from an injury and played."
Vaughan's presence not only improves the appearance and tactics of the side, it seems to rejuvenate Andrew Flintoff, too. Flintoff was magnificent with the ball against New Zealand. He dragged England back into the match after a dreadful start and showed the younger bowlers how to bowl. It is not the first time that he has performed like this when released from the strain of leading the side.
Fletcher reluctantly accepted that the captaincy may have had an effect on Flintoff's cricket but refused to admit that England were wrong to put him in charge in Vaughan's absence. "We feel that when Andrew is not captain he feels a bit freer in his batting, and especially his bowling," he said.
* The West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels passed on confidential team information to a bookmaker on the eve of the first one-day international against India last month, Indian police alleged last night. "Certain confidential team information was passed on by Samuels to Mukesh Kochchar, who is a well-known international bookie," said Amitesh Kumar, the deputy commissioner of police in Nagpur. India won the Nagpur game on 21 January by 14 runs and the four-match series 3-1. The Jamaican Samuels, 26, took 0 for 53 and scored 40 runs in that match. Kumar said that police had also informed the Indian cricket board and International Cricket Council about their findings.
Hair may take ICC to court over 'racial discrimination'
The Australian umpire Darrell Hair has issued notice of legal action against the Pakistan Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council, accusing them of racial discrimination.
Hair is reportedly ready to go to an employment tribunal after the ICC decided in November that he would not be selected for international matches involving the 10 major Test-playing nations.
Hair was at the centre of last summer's forfeited Test between England and Pakistan at the Oval. The tourists staged a protest at the decision of Hair and his fellow umpire Billy Doctrove to replace the ball, claiming that the decision accused them of ball tampering. Pakistan's refusal to take the field resulted in the Test becoming the first to be forfeited. A PCB spokesman accused Hair of "opportunism".