Injury forces Jones out of Ashes decider

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The Independent Online

But during a secret training session at Lord's yesterday morning it quickly became clear that the fast bowler had little chance of playing at The Oval.

Jones felt pain in his ankle as soon as he started jogging, and his place in the team will now be taken by either James Anderson or Paul Collingwood. "There was no chance," said a dejected Jones after his fitness test. "It was a sickening blow. I did some running on Monday and it felt a little sore and it was no better today [Tuesday]. I am obviously gutted. It would have been nice to play."

While England were coming to terms with the loss of one of this summer's star performers, Australia were watching Glenn McGrath have his first serious bowl for two and a half weeks. After a tentative start McGrath bowled several overs at full pace, but the sight of him shaking his hand after each delivery suggests that he is far from pain free.

Australia will continue to monitor McGrath's right elbow, and watch him closely at practice today before making a decision, but it will only become clear that he is fit enough to play when Ricky Ponting declares his team tomorrow morning. Australia will be desperate to play McGrath but, even if he comes through today's fitness test, selecting him will be a gamble.

McGrath may be the best fast bowler in the world but even a man of his class will struggle to find top form with so little competitive bowling behind him. The 35-year-old from New South Wales made a miraculous recovery from a twisted ankle to play in the third Test at Old Trafford, but he has not bowled without the distractions of an injury since the final day of the first Test in July.

"Glenn was able to complete what was asked of him at today's practice session, which included two solid bowling spells," said Errol Alcott, the Australian physiotherapist. "I am very pleased with him at this stage but as part of his overall management we will wait until tomorrow [today] before making any final decision on his availability for the Test match."

Jones has been told to rest his ankle for a further two weeks in the hope that he can avoid surgery, but an operation is the only way he can rid himself of the boney growths which will continue to cause him problems.

If Jones were to have surgery he would probably miss England's pre-Christmas tour of Pakistan. Andrew Flintoff had a similar complaint during the winter and it took him three months to fully recover from an operation on his left ankle.

"Surgery is an option," admitted Dr Peter Gregory, the chief medical officer at the England and Wales Cricket Board. "But the advice we have received from two leading specialists in the field is that the injury may still settle without recourse to an operation. He will continue to receive treatment over the next fortnight and the injury will be reassessed by the ECB medical team on a regular basis. No decision will be made on Simon's availability for the tour of Pakistan until we have had an opportunity to assess how the injury responds to a period of rest."

The only good thing to come out of Jones' failed fitness test is that an early decision has been made. It will have helped reduce the amount of speculation and uncertainty surrounding the England side as they prepare for the biggest match of their lives.

Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, will privately know who will play out of Anderson and Collingwood, and one of these players could yet find himself being paraded around central London on an open-top bus on Tuesday if England avoid defeat here. Views on who should replace Jones vary, but playing Anderson would be the bolder and more sensible option. Anderson's confidence is fragile, and he bowled poorly in the last Test he played in, but England have controlled the past three Tests by playing attacking cricket. The bowlers have led England's charge and Anderson would give Vaughan the same options he has had throughout the series.

The control England have had is highlighted by Australia's first-innings totals. In this summer's four Tests Australia's average first-innings score is 255, 145 runs fewer than what they have averaged against England in the previous 16 years.

Playing Collingwood strengthens the batting but weakens the bowling, and this would increase the chances of Australia posting a total which could put England under pressure.

Marcus Trescothick, who averages 86 at The Oval, highlighted what a valuable member of the team Jones has become. "The loss of Simon is a big blow," he said. "He has been a big performer for us this series. He's taken two five-wicket hauls and we are losing a major player.

"It will be tough for the player who comes in. This is as big a game as any of us are likely to play in. But it is also the sort of game that you dream of playing in, and it is up to the guy who comes in to take his opportunity and play well. We are playing well and we are confident, and whoever comes in will feed off that."

The experts' view: Anderson or Collingwood for the fifth Test?


Surrey batsman, familiar with pitches at the Oval

They really have to go for a bowler. Jones has bowled very well this series and you need to replace him with another bowler. I have only seen Anderson in a Twenty20 Cup match this season so I don't know what sort of form he is in, but I would pick Anderson.


Seam bowler, member of England Women's victorious Ashes team

I'd pick Anderson because he offers something different with the ball. He swings it away at pace from the right-hand batsman and he can fill that spot in the attack, but it is a difficult choice because Collingwood, while not as pacy a bowler, is an asset in the field and he can bat.


Middlesex captain and batsman

I believe they should go for Anderson because he's in form and he swings the ball away at good pace. He's an attacking bowler, and while he has struggled with form he has taken almost 50 wickets this summer for Lancashire, so right now he is probably somewhere near his best.


Former Daily Mirror Editor and lifelong cricket fan

Collingwood is the only option as England only need to draw. He has scored six centuries for Durham this season, and the thought of him striding to the crease, with Geraint Jones next, is exciting. I don't think Anderson is up to it. His head falls away too much.


Former England bowler, England bowling coach from 1998 to 2001

England have to keep attacking. So pick Anderson. He has that magic ball. He can swing it at pace and he fills the spot left open by Jones. We have the blueprint so don't suddenly go defensive and pick someone who will bring more to the batting. Anyway, Anderson is a centrally contracted player.


Surrey and England bowler, familiar with the Oval

If they're guaranteed five dry days then I'd pick Anderson. But if rain is forecast then I would go for Collingwood, because the Australians have to bowl us out twice, so he would strengthen that area. I'm sure they'll pick Anderson.

David Llewellyn