Flintoff injury adds to gloom after England humiliation

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The Independent Online

It was hard to know what was causing England the greatest pain last night after they fell to an embarrassing 134-run defeat to Sri Lanka in the third Test here. The loss and a drawn series against a team they were expected to beat or the prospect of being without Andrew Flintoff for the foreseeable future.

Flintoff admitted, after watching his side capitulate to the wizardry of Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 8 for 70 in a quite brilliant spell of spin bowling, that the injury which prevented him from bowling a full quota of overs on Sunday was far more serious than originally thought.

At the close of Sunday's play Flintoff was taken for a precautionary scan on his sore left ankle which revealed that three fragments of bone were floating around in the joint. The scan results will be analysed by a specialist, Bill Ribbans, over the next two days, but there must be a real chance that he will require further surgery on the ankle on which he had an operation 18 months ago.

Surgery would rule Flintoff out of this month's one-day series against Sri Lanka and at least two of England's four Test matches against Pakistan. To many people, though, the Ashes is all that counts and Flintoff should be fully fit before the first Test in Brisbane on 23 November.

"The problem with the ankle is around the same area as before," Flintoff said. "Whether the fragments of bone have been there all the time, we don't know. It is up to the specialist to read the scans and then we will have more of an idea of what treatment is needed. Ankle pain is something I have had for some time now. In Pakistan, towards the end, I got pain there, so it is something I have to deal with. It has come to the point where we had to get it investigated and we are going to see what is going on there."

Flintoff's ankle was not the only worrying injury news for England as it was revealed that Simon Jones seems certain to have a second operation on his left knee. After a lengthy rest Jones saw a specialist last week who recommended surgery. He is visiting a surgeon in America for a second opinion but Jones is unlikely to play again this summer and must be a major doubt for the Ashes.

It is not all doom and gloom for England. Michael Vaughan is expected to continue his rehabilitation tomorrow at Southgate, where Yorkshire play Middlesex. Stephen Harmison will play for Durham at Edgbaston on the same day, but he will not line up against Ashley Giles, who is still a few weeks away from returning to action.