Giles stands by Vaughan for trip to Zimbabwe

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Ashley Giles yesterday put his loyalty towards a team-mate ahead of his moral objections to Robert Mugabe's tyrannical regime when he turned down the opportunity to miss England's controversial tour of Zimbabwe.

Ashley Giles yesterday put his loyalty towards a team-mate ahead of his moral objections to Robert Mugabe's tyrannical regime when he turned down the opportunity to miss England's controversial tour of Zimbabwe.

England's premier spinner was told by the selectors before they announced the 14-man squad that he did not have to travel to Southern Africa if he did not want to go.

England are scheduled to spend 10 days training in Namibia before flying to Zimbabwe for a series of five one-day internationals.

However, rather than sit on his backside in Birmingham, Giles chose to give his support to the England captain, Michael Vaughan.

"I felt it was important to support Michael Vaughan and the rest of the squad by going to Zimbabwe," said Giles. "I also believe there were compelling cricketing reasons for me to go as I have now secured a regular place in our one-day side, and I am keen to retain my position within the team."

The 31 year-old's devotion to Vaughan does not come as a major surprise, even though he was one of the players who felt that England should not visit Zimbabwe 18 months ago and play their World Cup qualifying match in Harare.

Giles and Vaughan are close friends and this decision is a direct response to the support the captain gave the spinner during the summer.

At one stage during England's Test series against New Zealand, when wickets were hard to come by and criticism of his bowling was at its height, the Warwickshire slow left-armer contemplated retiring from international cricket.

However, throughout this difficult period Vaughan stuck by his mate and helped to turn his fortunes around. By the end of a successful summer, Giles was second only to Stephen Harmison in England's list of wicket-takers with 31 victims.

Vaughan, who was denied the opportunity to rest by David Morgan, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, appeared slightly less enamoured after the announcement of his squad, even though his side will not attend any state functions.

"Under normal circumstances I would have welcomed an extended break after a long international season," he said. "But the England team, and the game as a whole, are faced with an extraordinary situation in undertaking this tour to Zimbabwe.

"I am proud to be the captain of my country and I feel that I have a duty to my team-mates to lead the team on the tour," he added. "It has taken me a considerable amount of time and effort to come to this decision but ultimately it was my choice, and one that I stand by."

Andrew Flintoff and Marcus Trescothick were also given the same option by the selectors and have decided to rest before the five-Test series against South Africa which starts in Port Elizabeth on 17 December.

This pair, Harmison - who pulled out of the tour to Zimbabwe on moral grounds - and the rest of England's Test squad will travel to South Africa on 6 December.

The absence of England's two premier fast bowlers must have helped Darren Gough to retain his place in the side. The 34-year-old completed the Champions Trophy in disappointing style, conceding far too many runs and failing to break the match-winning partnership in the final against the West Indies. The selectors have continued to show loyalty and will hope that he spends the three weeks in Zimbabwe working with the young bowlers rather than trying to prove to everyone that he is a better bowler than them.

Gough's selection has saved the British public from the prospect of watching him follow in the footsteps of Phil Tufnell by appearing in I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!, which is due to coincide with the tour of Zimbabwe. The Essex fast bowler is supposed to have turned down an offer to spend a couple of weeks in the Queensland jungle with a load of has-beens a month ago, but had he been dropped from the one-day side, it may have been an option too lucrative to miss.

The selectors decided to use the places vacated by Flintoff, Trescothick and Harmison to prepare Simon Jones for the tour of South Africa and to have a look at Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior. Pietersen is an exciting young batsman, while Prior will act as Geraint Jones's understudy.

The selection of Prior will come as a major blow to Chris Read. Many believe the Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper should already be playing ahead of Jones in the shortened form of the game.

Pietersen, Prior and Simon Jones will only have limited opportunities to impress. For the seven one-dayers in South Africa their places will be taken by Kabir Ali and those who chose not to tour Zimbabwe.

England's new men: a chance to shine in the shadows

Kevin Pietersen

The South African-born batsman turned his back on the country of his birth, disillusioned with the quota systems demanding the inclusion of black players in every cricket team. He threatened to leave Nottinghamshire at the end of 2003 but stayed and became eligible for England at the end of last season. The gifted, highly-rated 24-year-old can destroy the best attacks in county cricket. Also a brilliant fielder, he does not lack confidence. A former team-mate called him "the most talented player I have ever worked with". But he added: "He is at the top of a couple of other lists too."

Matt Prior

The Sussex wicketkeeper was also born in South Africa but moved to England at a young age and has represented the county since he was in the Under-12s. In 2003, the 22-year-old played a major role in helping Sussex to win the County Championship for the first time in their history. And following another excellent season on the south coast in 2004, he was considered for a place on England's Test tour of South Africa as Geraint Jones' No 2 but missed out to Chris Read. Prior is also capable of scoring hundreds, a prerequisite for the England coach, Duncan Fletcher.

England Squads

Squad to tour Zimbabwe and Nambia: M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt) Age 29, Caps 56; V S Solanki (Worcestershire) 28, 29; A J Strauss (Middlesex) 27, 18; P D Collingwood (Durham) 28, 59; G O Jones (Kent, wkt) 28, 12; A G Wharf (Glamorgan) 29, 7; A F Giles (Warwickshire) 31, 44; D Gough (Essex) 34, 138; J M Anderson (Lancashire) 22, 36; G J Batty (Worcestershire) 26, 5; I R Bell (Warwickshire) 22, 0; K P Pietersen (Nottinghamshire) 24, 0; S P Jones (Glamorgan) 25, 0; M J Prior (Sussex, wkt) 22, 0.

Squad to tour South Africa: Vaughan (capt); Solanki; M E Trescothick (Somerset) 28, 91; Strauss; A Flintoff (Lancashire) 26, 80; Collingwood; G O Jones; Wharf; Giles; Gough; S J Harmison (Durham) 25, 23; Anderson; Kabir Ali (Worcestershire) 23, 1; Batty; Bell.

Tour Itinerary

21 Nov: One-day match v Namibia (Windhoek).

23 Nov: One-day match v Namibia (Windhoek).

24 Nov: Travel to Harare via Johannesburg.

26 Nov: First one-day international, Harare.

28 Nov: Second ODI, Harare.

1 Dec: Third ODI, Bulawayo.

4 Dec: Fourth ODI, Bulawayo.

5 Dec: Fifth ODI, Bulawayo.

6 Dec: Travel to Johannesburg.

17-21 Dec: First Test, Port Elizabeth.

26-30 Dec: Second Test, Durban.

2-6 Jan: Third Test, Cape Town.

13-17 Jan: Fourth Test, Johannesburg.

21-25 Jan: Fifth Test, Centurion.

30 Jan: First ODI, Johannesburg.

2 Feb: Second ODI, Bloemfontein (d/n).

4 Feb: Third ODI, Port Elizabeth (d/n).

6 Feb: Fourth ODI, Cape Town.

9 Feb: Fifth ODI, East London (d/n).

11 Feb: Sixth ODI, Durban (d/n).

13 Feb: Seventh ODI, Centurion.