Injuries transform England's ambitions into ashes

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The Independent Online

A beleaguered England management spent yesterday scuttling from net practice to fitness test to crisis meeting, as a lengthening injury list plunged their Ashes plans into disarray, the upshot of which is that they are likely to announce today the names of up to three replacements for the 14-man squad named at the weekend for Thursday's first Test.

Definitely ruled out of the Edgbaston curtain-raiser are Graham Thorpe, whose damaged calf has still not mended after a month of treatment, and Mark Ramprakash, who was picked as cover for Thorpe but has himself withdrawn with a hamstring injury. They are almost certain to be joined by Michael Vaughan, who may spend Thursday undergoing surgery on a torn cartilage.

England had hoped to tackle Australia's formidable attack with seven specialist batsmen, including Alec Stewart, but yesterday's triple blow leaves them with only five. To further complicate matters, the spinner Ashley Giles, who was doubtful after his Achilles tendon problems, was confined to bed with tonsillitis. Glamorgan's Robert Croft has been placed on standby to replace him.

In the circumstances, the coach Duncan Fletcher left physio Dean Conway to talk on his behalf after practice at Edgbaston before joining captain Nasser Hussain and the chairman of selectors David Graveney to discuss replace-ments. Mark Butcher, John Crawley, Graeme Hick, Nick Knight, Owais Shah and Usman Afzaal will all be in the frame.

Conway said Thorpe had been advised to give his calf more time to heal in the hope of being ready for the second Test at Lord's on 19 July. "He has some slight internal bleeding and the specialist has advised a new drug regime and seven to 10 days' rest," he said.

"Vaughan is a very serious doubt with a torn cartilage in his left knee. He has come through practice today and an injection might dampen down the discomfort sufficiently for him to play but he has been booked in provisionally for an operation on Thursday, and we will leave it to him to decide which option he takes."

Should he undergo surgery, Vaughan would need three to four weeks to recover, ruling him out until at least the third Test.

Meanwhile, the Australians did their bit to damage English morale by pinning their own line-up to the Edgbaston dressing room wall with a full three days to spare. They have replaced the out-of-form Justin Langer with the notably in-form Damian Martyn and were only too delighted to announce a team that combines the formidable pace trio of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee with leg-spinner Shane Warne for the first time in the same Test side.

"It was a tough choice to leave out Justin," the team manager John Buchanan said. "He has been very much part of our side for a while now and embodies the whole spirit of what Australian cricket is all about. He is disappointed and we all feel for him very much."

Langer averages 39.04 in a 41-cap Test career but Martyn's form has looked increasingly hard to resist. The 29-year-old's Test career has been limited to 11 caps, largely because of the intensity of competition, but he goes into the series with a first-class tour average of 96.00 after centuries against Worcestershire and Essex.

AUSTRALIA (First Test v England (Edgbaston, Thursday): M L Hayden, M S Slater, R T Ponting, M E Waugh, S R Waugh (capt), D R Martyn, A C Gilchrist (Ý), S K Warne, B Lee, J N Gillespie, G N McGrath.