Knee surgery rules out Warne

England's batsmen will not have to contend with Shane Warne should they meet Australia in the ICC knock-out tournament in Kenya following the leg spinner's withdrawal yesterday with a knee injury.

England's batsmen will not have to contend with Shane Warne should they meet Australia in the ICC knock-out tournament in Kenya following the leg spinner's withdrawal yesterday with a knee injury.

Warne, Australia's leading Test wicket-taker of all-time, is to undergo surgery on his left knee. He will miss the tournament which Australia begin on 7 October with a match against the winners of a preliminary-round tie between India and Kenya. England's one-day party fly out next Thursday and play their opening game against Bangladesh on 5 October.

The operation will clean up the surface of the knee joint and should help ease the discomfort the 31-year-old Hampshire spinner has felt for 12 months.

"The problem is not a major one and it hasn't affected my bowling," Warne said. "However, it is something I have noticed at stages over the past year and with a busy period of cricket coming up, including tours of India and the UK following the domestic season, I want to ensure I'm part of that as it should be an exciting time for the team."

Warne hopes to return to action well ahead of the Australians' Test series with West Indies, starting in Brisbane on 23 November.

County cricket could lose more of its leading players to the England central contract system after the England and Wales County Cricket Board re-elected Lord MacLaurin for a further two years as chairman.

MacLaurin favours extending the central contract system, which was brought in before England's 3-1 defeat of the West Indies.

He said he hoped to see an extension of the contract system to cover more players, although that is sure to upset some of the counties. Club officials have accepted the system and the financial compensation it ensures for affected teams, but fans have not been so welcoming.

"The England contracts will certainly continue and increase in time," MacLaurin said.

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