On the eve of England's inaugural tour of Bangladesh the side's selectors received their second setback in a fortnight yesterday when Andrew Flintoff withdrew from the 15-man squad which leaves for Dhaka today because of injury. The Kent swing bowler Martin Saggers will take his place.
The loss of Flintoff, who has a groin problem, and his Lancashire team-mate James Anderson - with a knee complaint - will dent Michael Vaughan's hopes of winning his first tour as captain because Flintoff has replaced Darren Gough as England's talismanic figure. During the summer's Tests against South Africa the 25-year-old took huge strides towards becoming the world-class all-rounder England have been searching for.
Despite missing the two Tests against Bangladesh both Flintoff and Anderson hope to be fit for England's three one-day internationals against the minnows of the game and their ensuing tour of Sri Lanka, where they will play three Tests.
On the selection of Saggers David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, said: "We decided not to opt for a like-for-like replacement because we already have two batting all-rounders in the squad in Rikki Clarke and Paul Collingwood. Martin had been placed on standby for the Test squad this winter and his inclusion will give us extra [pace bowling] options."
Saggers, who has been mentioned as a potential England bowler on occasions this summer, owes his selection to four years of consistent bowling for his county. In each of these seasons the 31-year-old took more than 50 Championship wickets, his best summer being 2002 when the right-arm paceman claimed 83 victims.
To keep himself fit, in form and ready for just this sort of phone call Saggers was in South Africa playing club cricket. "I knew if I kept going and took wickets my chance would come," said Saggers, who will join up with the rest of England's squad today at Heathrow. "I'm going out there full of vigour and hope things go well."
That Saggers has not yet played for England is probably down to the fact that at 6ft 2in he is quite small for a bowler who does not have express pace. Saggers' county captain, David Fulton, does not feel this will prevent him from making an impact. "If they [the selectors] have an open mind, I'm convinced he will bowl his way into the team," Fulton said. "One of the great things about Saggs is that he is a big-match performer. He is not a one-trick pony and I'm sure he will go well in any type of conditions."
For Flintoff this is the second winter that groin problems have troubled him. In 2002, he took longer than hoped to recover from a double hernia operation and missed the entire Ashes series, and England will be hoping he does not have similar difficulties over the coming weeks.
FRAGILE FLINTOFF: ALL-ROUNDER'S INJURY PROBLEMS
1999: Forced to return home early from England's South Africa tour after breaking a foot in fourth Test at Cape Town.
2000: Back injury cuts short Flintoff's tour of Pakistan.
2001: Flies out to rejoin England squad in Sri Lanka for one-day internationals after Test series but does not feature against Pakistan or Australia over the summer because of injury.
2002: Battles against injury throughout disappointing personal summer against Sri Lanka and India. Undergoes hernia operation after being dismissed for a pair in third Test against India at Headingley.
Faces battle to prove fitness for first Ashes Test against Australia at Brisbane in November and is sent to Academy in Adelaide to assist recovery.
Ruled out of first three Tests but remains with the squad in hope of recovering for one-day series. Fails to recover and flies home before the one-day series against Australia and Sri Lanka, to give himself opportunity to recover from groin injury in time for World Cup.
2003: Suffers shoulder injury when hit in nets which rules him out of both Zimbabwe Tests.
Groin injury forces him out of two-Test tour of Bangladesh.Reuse content