Injury rules Johnson out of Pakistan challenge

Cricket: Somerset pace bowler who made superb England Test debut against Zimbabwe misses one-day series because of knee problem
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The Independent Online

Richard Johnson, England's man of the match in the second Test against Zimbabwe, has been ruled out of the NatWest Challenge against Pakistan which begins next week, after injuring his right knee on the last day of the match in Durham.

Johnson, who made a sensational start to his Test career when he achieved the seventh-best bowling figures by an Englishman on debut with 6 for 33, aggravated the troublesome knee when he fell awkwardly minutes before England completed their win.

After such a successful debut this setback will come as a bitter blow to the Somerset fast bowler, who, because of injury - mainly to his right knee - and the whim of the selectors has had to wait eight years to break into the England side, despite being one of the country's leading bowlers.

"It was a freak accident," said the 28-year-old. "When my left foot slipped fielding at mid-on my right knee bent into a position it has not been in for years. To do it fielding just before the end is soul destroying. The knee is recovering but it is not 100 per cent yet. I hope to join up with the squad in Nottingham for the NatWest Series against South Africa and Zimbabwe."

Replacing Johnson in the 15-man squad for the three matches against Pakistan, the first of which is on Tuesday, is James Kirtley, the Sussex fast bowler. Kirtley and the Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper, Chris Read, who has not yet fully recovered from a broken thumb, will not be available for England's warm-up game against Wales today. Read, however, should be fit for Tuesday's game at Old Trafford.

Such problems will quickly have given the new one-day captain, Michael Vaughan, a taste of the job. Vaughan can begin his tenancy by settling an old score in Cardiff today. Those who were involved in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago will realise this fixture is not a friendly. Then England, under the captaincy of Marcus Trescothick, suffered an embarrassing eight-wicket defeat. It is a result remembered with fondness in Wales, particularly by the former England spinner, Robert Croft, who was man of the match in last year's fixture and captains Wales today.

"This year we'd be happy to pay their toll to come over the bridge," Croft said, still revelling in the victory. "We realise we are just here to give England some practise, but having won last year it would be nice to keep our 100 per cent record intact."

With only one match before Tuesday's day/night encounter, and a desire to get their partnership off to a winning start Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, have little time to experiment with their inexperienced squad. They will, therefore, pick their strongest team.

Trescothick is to replace Read behind the stumps with Essex's James Foster missing out on a call up which is far from ideal, but it gives another player in the squad the chance to have a game.

After impressive displays in the first two Tests of the summer James Anderson is likely to be rested, but Darren Gough will get his first game for England in a year. The Wales side will be essentially made up of Glamorgan players, with Michael Kasprowicz, their overseas player, and Steffan Jones from Somerset invited as guests for the day.

Wales (from): R D B Croft (capt), I J Thomas, M J Powell, M P Maynard, D L Hemp, A Dale, M A Wallace, M S Kaspowicz, A G Wharf, S P Jones, D A Cosker, D S Harrison, S D Thomas.

England (from): M P Vaughan, M E Trescothick, V Solanki, R W T Key, J O Troughton, A McGrath, A Flintoff, R Clarke, A F Giles, Kabir Ali, D Gough, J M Anderson, S J Harmison.