England set to rest Vaughan and Flintoff

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The Independent Online

England are expected to resist the temptation to select a less than fully fit Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan today, when they announce their squad for the NatWest one-day series against Sri Lanka. The move, despite Vaughan scoring 99 yesterday for Yorkshire against Middlesex, makes sense and selecting either player would be as foolhardy as Sven Goran Eriksson playing Wayne Rooney against Paraguay on Saturday.

Vaughan's batting appears to be in good shape but striking the ball cleanly is the least of his worries. The England captain's problems arise when he runs between the wickets and dives around in the field. It is the uncontrolled twisting and turning of the joint that will cause him discomfort, as it did on several occasions yesterday at Southgate.

England may feel under pressure to rush back Vaughan following Monday's Test defeat by Sri Lanka, but exposing him so early in his rehabilitation to the circus that is one-day cricket would be irresponsible. England's resources are currently stretched to the limit but they can live without Vaughan for another month. A more realistic comeback date would be 13 July, when England take on Pakistan in the first Test at Lord's.

England delayed announcing their one-day squad by a day in order to collect more information from specialists on the state of Flintoff's left ankle, but the selectors should not even consider playing him in the NatWest series. The fragments of bone floating around in Flintoff's ankle will not disappear, and they are only likely to cause further problems if he continues playing.

The Ashes is almost five months away and England cannot afford to risk the problem flaring up again on the eve of the first Test in Brisbane. Flintoff should have an arthroscopic operation to remove the shards of bone as soon as possible and spend six weeks getting himself fit for the final two Tests against Pakistan.

The absence of Vaughan and Flintoff, along with Ashley Giles, Simon Jones, James Anderson and Ian Blackwell, who are also injured, will leave Andrew Strauss captaining the side.

Rikki Clarke is considered by many to be the second best all-rounder in England and the series will give him the chance to impress. Stephen Harmison will make a welcome return and Stuart Broad, the son of Chris, the former England opener, has a chance of being fast-tracked into the side. Broad could well be joined by Jamie Dalrymple, Alex Loudon and Ed Joyce.

Middlesex's Joyce and Owais Shah and Essex's Alastair Cook will compete for the final batting spot. Shah is the most versatile of the three but his fielding lets him down. This could give the Dublin-born Joyce the chance to play for England against Ireland in the first full one-day international between the two sides in Belfast on Tuesday.

The loss of so many senior players is good news for Geraint Jones, the England wicketkeeper. Jones desperately needs to start scoring runs if he is to avoid being replaced by James Foster or Chris Read. Whoever keeps wicket, Sri Lanka will probably start as favourites.

Sri Lanka squad for NatWest series: D P M D Jayawardene (captain), K C Sangakkara (wicketkeeper), S T Jayasuriya, W U Tharanga, T M Dilshan, C K Kapugedera, R P Arnold, M F Maharoof, W P U J C Vaas, S L Malinga, M Muralitharan, C R D Fernando, P D R L Perera, C M Bandara.

Angus Fraser's England squad: A J Strauss (c), I R Bell, S C J Broad, R Clarke, P D Collingwood, R Clarke, J W M Dalrymple, S J Harmison, G O Jones, Kabir Ali, A G R Loudon, S I Mahmood, K P Pietersen, L E Plunkett, M E Trescothick.

* Pakistan paceman Shoaib Akhtar is likely to miss the start of the tour of England due to an ankle injury. He is a doubt for the first Test at Lord's on 13 July.