Positive spin on Giles' injury can help turn Ashes

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher will remain close to their mobile phones tomorrow morning, desperately hoping that a call from Edgbaston will bring positive news on the fitness of Ashley Giles. The left-arm spinner missed England's two Test victories over Bangladesh with a hip injury and, following a couple of weeks of rehabilitation, his chances of playing in this month's NatWest Series will be assessed by the medical teams of Warwickshire and England.

Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher will remain close to their mobile phones tomorrow morning, desperately hoping that a call from Edgbaston will bring positive news on the fitness of Ashley Giles. The left-arm spinner missed England's two Test victories over Bangladesh with a hip injury and, following a couple of weeks of rehabilitation, his chances of playing in this month's NatWest Series will be assessed by the medical teams of Warwickshire and England.

Giles damaged the cartilage in his right hip whilst playing for Warwickshire in the week prior to the first Test. Initially it was felt that there was nothing seriously wrong and, in an attempt to get himself fit for Lord's, the 32-year-old had a cortisone injection in the joint. But it failed to rid Giles of the complaint and he was sent for a scan, which revealed he has a tear of the laberum.

An injury like this is unlikely to disappear unless it is operated on, but in an effort to get him through a momentous summer of cricket he has been placed on a training schedule which involves pilates sessions and hydrotherapy work in a pool. The results of Giles's labour will become clearer in the next 48 hours but there must be a distinct possibility of him having only a limited role in England's Ashes campaign.

Twelve months ago the availability of Giles would have been considered pretty irrelevant to the chances of England winning a Test series. The Warwickshire spinner had just had a miserable winter touring with England and, with a Test bowling average of over 40, there was constant speculation about his place in Vaughan's side.

But 31 wickets in seven Test matches against New Zealand and the West Indies changed everyone's perception of the affable spinner. Giles also scored useful runs batting at eight, and by the end of the summer his input had played a major role in England winning seven consecutive Test matches. Last winter's tour of South Africa failed to bring the same success but he remains a pivotal part of England's bowling attack

Giles may have taken 456 Test wickets fewer than Shane Warne but he attempts to perform the same role for England as the legendary leg-spinner does for Australia. Warne keeps it tight whilst Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie have a well-earned rest and for the past year Vaughan has been able to throw the ball to Giles knowing that he can afford England's fast bowlers the same luxury.

The tactic of bowling over the wicket, and aiming for the rough created by bowlers bowling from the other end, may not be as sexy or skilful as that performed by Warne, but it has proved successful. These dusty areas limit the range of strokes a left-handed batsman can confidently play, and frustrate right-handers who do not know whether to pad him away or play a stroke.

English spinners have had a dreadful time against Australia in the last two Ashes series. In 10 matches, Giles, Philip Tufnell, Robert Croft and Richard Dawson have taken only 14 wickets at an average of 63 runs each. But it is not just the cost of every wicket that causes England captains nightmares, it is the rate at which the Australian batsmen score their runs.

And the ultra-positive approach of Ricky Ponting's highly talented batting line-up is unlikely to change this summer. Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke and Ponting will be looking to get after England's spinner as soon as he is introduced into the attack. In his first over, one of these players will undoubtedly shimmy down the wicket and attempt to hit him straight back over his head for six. Steve Waugh, who captained Australia on 57 occasions in his illustrious career, also believes that his former team-mates will adopt this approach.

"I think this tour is going to be a major test for Giles," Waugh said. "I think Australia will really look to dominate him and I think he will play a major role, depending on how he handles it. If he gets dominated, I think that will really upset the balance of England's attack."

Giles's comments at the start of the 2004 season, when he stated that he had considered packing in Test cricket because of the flak he was receiving, shows that his confidence is vulnerable, but the experience of 45 Test appearances means that he is far more likely to cope with the expected onslaught than any of those who have premonitions of taking his place.

Gareth Batty played in the two matches against Bangladesh and he can expect to line up against the Australians at Lord's on 21 July should Giles fail to recover. Batty is a useful cricketer but he is best known for his performance in Antigua where he conceded the runs that allowed Brian Lara to regain his world record and then go on to become the first batsman to score 400 runs in an innings. Nottinghamshire's Graeme Swann and Lancashire's Gary Keedy are England's only other alternatives, and Australia's batsmen are unlikely to lose any sleep over them.

l Matthew Hoggard will play for Yorkshire in this week's County Championship match against Lancashire. The England fast bowler had complained of hip and ankle soreness after the second Test against Bangladesh.

l The England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones has been found not guilty of deceiving the umpires for Nafees Iqbal's dismissal by Jones' disputed catch during the second Test.

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