McGrath's freak injury a disaster for Australia

McGrath may trail Shane Warne in terms of career Test wickets but his value in Australia's dominance of world cricket outstrips his leg-spinning team-mate's.

Since his 1993 debut against New Zealand in Perth, McGrath has played in 110 Test matches, of which Australia have won 73. Put another way, 66.4 per cent of his Test match appearances have been winning ones. In the 26 Tests he has missed in that time, Australia have been successful in only 46.2 per cent.

Warne has been on the winning side 76 times in Tests, but his ratio of wins to appearances puts him behind McGrath at 61.3 per cent.

Australia have managed better without Warne, winning 56.25 per cent of the games he has missed, indicating that while Warne may be capable of making the ball perform magical tricks, it is the steady, metronomic quality of McGrath's impeccable line and length that has been the more reliable weapon.

This is the first Ashes Test McGrath has missed since Sydney in 2003, where England won by 225 runs, and Michael Vaughan, the England captain, knows as well as any how McGrath has consistently been a thorn in English flesh.

Australia have won 17 of McGrath's 23 Tests against England, in which he has claimed 126 wickets and become the bête noire for a sequence of batsmen.

Michael Atherton is his greatest victim, succumbing 19 times, followed by Alec Stewart (10). Of the current line-up, Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick have each been dismissed five times by McGrath, who correctly predicted the latter would become his 500th Test scalp before Australia's first Test victory at Lord's.

Warne's 138 English wickets in 27 Tests before this one put him ahead of his colleague in numbers, but McGrath's 126 have been acquired in four fewer matches.

How much more he can contribute this summer depends on how quickly he recovers from an injury the Australian physiotherapist Errol Alcott described as "a grade two tear of the lateral ligaments" in his right ankle. His fitness for the third Test at Old Trafford, starting next Thursday, looks in serious doubt and there are suggestions he might be out for as much as six weeks.

McGrath had surgery on his left ankle in 2003, causing him to miss nine Tests. During his lay-off, Australia could only draw their home series against India.

Cream of the crocks: Bizarre sporting accidents

* CHRIS LEWIS England cricketer: Shaved his head during a West Indies tour and then got sunstroke.

* RICHARD WRIGHT Everton goalkeeper:

Damaged shoulder falling through loft while packing away suitcases.

* DAVE BEASANT Goalkeeper: Ruled out for eight weeks when with Chelsea in 1993 after dropping a bottle of salad cream on his foot.

* SVEIN GRONDALEN

The Norway defender had to withdraw from an international during the 1970s after colliding with a moose while out jogging.

* KASEY KELLER

US-born goalkeeper: Knocked out front teeth while pulling his golf clubs from the boot of his car.

* SAM TORRANCE (above) Scottish golfer: The Ryder Cup-winning captain fractured his sternum after colliding with a flower pot while sleepwalking.

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