Fletcher caught in slip over Jones loss

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The Independent Online

That is a big blow to England, who need to avoid defeat in order to regain the Ashes for first time since Mike Gatting's side won in 1986-87. Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, admitted yesterday: "I am not confident he will play at The Oval." He was speaking on television and made what appeared to be an inadvertent Freudian slip when he added: "He will be a big loss, because he seems to have one over on their batsmen," before he hastily corrected himself by saying, "but we still hope he will play, we will have to wait and see."

The England and Wales Cricket Board medical officer Dr Peter Gregory said: "The treatment Simon receives this week will aim to reduce the inflammation in those soft tissues."

Fletcher explained how highly he valued Jones: "He has become very vital to the attack. Speed is important at this level. You have to be at 85mph-plus and swing the ball. Ideally for The Oval we would try not to change anything."

Jones's five wickets in the first innings at Trent Bridge helped lay the foundations for England's thrilling victory over Australia. The win gave the home team a 2-1 lead in the Ashes series to take with them into the final Test in south London starting on 8 September.

As much as Fletcher would like Jones in the team he might have to find an alternative. He could opt for the Durham all-rounder Paul Collingwood, but would be losing pace and penetration even though he would be gaining runs and a fine fielder. Andy Caddick is probably too long in the tooth, although he would be an "expendable" choice in that the Somerset strike bowler could be brought in for the one-off Test, then be dropped immediately without conscience even if he did well because, at 36, he is closing in fast on his cricketing dotage.

Jimmy Anderson looks to be firing again after a lean time in which he lost his outswinger and some of his zip. But although he has that back, the consistency is still not quite with him.

That leaves Chris Tremlett. The Hampshire man is a member of the current Ashes squad, although he has yet to make his debut. Given the consistency of selection that is marking out Fletcher's reign, it is highly probable that if all forms of treatment on Jones's ankle fail to get him up and running again, that Tremlett will be given a baptism that is hotter than hell.

At least Fletcher will have Andrew Flintoff. The Lancashire all-rounder has claimed two man-of-the-match awards in the past three Tests of this Ashes series and is England's top wicket-taker with 19 scalps.

The 27-year-old said yesterday: "I'm pinching myself at times. I've always wanted to play in an Ashes series and I've waited and waited to play in one and I just can't believe how actually good it is.

"I've never felt like this before playing cricket. I enjoy the game as much as anyone, but the feelings and emotions I'm going through right now I've never experienced through sport before and it's living up to everything I expected it to be and a lot, lot more. We've got one more game left at The Oval and I've got one more game in me, hopefully, and a few more overs and a few more runs."

Flintoff recalled watching the 1989 Ashes series, when Australia claimed a 4-0 victory. "I remember growing up watching the Ashes on television, watching [Terry] Alderman knocking over Graham Gooch all the time," Flintoff said. "Back in those days I never dreamed of playing in one and - now I am doing - I'm just going with it."

Flintoff said he was relieved when Ashley Giles hit the winning runs at Trent Bridge. "When I got out and I was sat up in the dressing-room I didn't know what to do with myself. I was really sick at one stage ... and I got quite emotional at the end when Ashley knocked the winning runs off. I never thought we'd lost it because the partnerships we needed were very small, but there's always that devil on your shoulder just chipping away at you. It was a massive release when we got over the line."

Matthew Hoggard joined Giles yesterday in reliving their eighth-wicket partnership which saw England home by three wickets. Hoggard recalled how different it was on his debut five years before. "I remember sitting in the dressing-room at Lord's then and chewing the bat handle off, not knowing how I was going to score runs. This time I was very confident of being able to help knock off the 14 runs we needed."

But the England changing room was not the best of places to be on Sunday evening for all that confidence. Hoggard said: "It was very nervy in the dressing-room beforehand. I saw Ash before he went out to bat, he was 'bricking' it, and I wasn't far behind."

But when Hoggard's time came something changed for the Yorkshireman. "When I went out to bat I was, bizarrely, very confident. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. I didn't really play the first ball too well, but after that I just thought, 'Here we go'."

Giles explained: "When you are seven down all sorts of thoughts go through your head. When Hoggy came out he had this nervous smile on his face but he said, 'Come on then, let's get on with it. Let's do it'.

The pair of them survived long enough for Giles to be able to make that winning hit. "It is as a good a feeling as you will get," he said.

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