Tudor put on standby for England call

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The Independent Online

Fresh from their crushing 3-0 Test series victory over Pakistan in Sharjah, Australia's players began returning home yesterday to refocus their attention on retaining the Ashes against England.

Fresh from their crushing 3-0 Test series victory over Pakistan in Sharjah, Australia's players began returning home yesterday to refocus their attention on retaining the Ashes against England.

The local belief is that Australia are even more dominant than in the last Ashes series, particularly now England have major worries about three key players being fit for the first Test in Brisbane on 7 November.

Such is England's worsening injury situation that the Surrey fast bowler Alex Tudor, who is with their National Academy in Adelaide, has been put on standby for a call-up to the full squad. England's main strike bowler, Darren Gough, is yet to feature as he continues his comeback from knee trouble while the all-rounder Andrew Flintoff travels to Adelaide today for rehabilitation after a hernia operation.

The opener Michael Vaughan has also suffered a setback after a recent knee operation and, instead of returning in the two-day match against Western Australia at the WACA today, he is now likely also to miss the three-day match against the same opponents starting on Monday.

Although the disruption to England's preparations is bound to lift Australian morale, Justin Langer is keen for the tourists to field their strongest side during the series so there can be no excuses about the outcome.

"If they don't have their strongest team out on the field then that is a bonus, but having said we'd love to be able to play against their strongest line-up because when you do that there can't be any excuses," he added.

Unlike his fellow Western Australians Adam Gilchrist and Damien Martyn, who also returned yesterday from Sharjah, Langer is planning to get straight back into his preparation for the Ashes and is expected to feature in the three-day match at the WACA starting on Monday.

Both Gilchrist and Martyn are expected to decide against another match so soon after their gruelling series in Sharjah and will instead have a week's break before the start of the series in Brisbane.

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