Yorkshire 337-5 v Middlesex: Opener's national service on hold after limping to 99

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan played through the pain barrier and back on to the England radar with the first 99 of his career yesterday.

If there were times when his bat was more crutch than run-making implement, especially in the morning session, when he also had a couple of scares, then it simply served to underline that he is still not fully fit, still not ready to pick up the reins as England captain. His right knee is certainly not ready to allow him to play a full part in the one-day series against Sri Lanka, which starts in nine days' time.

He admitted as much himself after his four hours, 10 minutes stint at the crease, which helped haul Yorkshire out of deep trouble after they had lost two wickets in the first three overs. "It was nice to spend some time in the middle, but it's a very early stage in my progression. I wasn't at my most nimble or quickest between the wickets and I don't think England will announce me in the squad tomorrow." But he indicated that he would like to play in the final two one-day internationals.

"Duncan [Fletcher] has said that he will leave it open for me to come back in two weeks' time. That would be ideal for me. If I was going to be fit for the first Test against Pakistan, then I could come back and get some cricket with a couple of one-dayers. But I have to get through this four-day game, see how I feel, then get through a couple more games for Yorkshire without any setbacks at all. As I've said, they don't need a limping Michael Vaughan, they need a Michael Vaughan that is running around."

He had to undergo treatment at every opportunity in order to maintain mobility in the joint, but by the afternoon session as he moved towards what every Yorkshire and England fan hoped would be the 40th hundred of his career, he looked more comfortable.

When he got a leading edge to the off-spinner Jamie Dalrymple 15 minutes after lunch he had contributed mightily to the Yorkshire cause, sharing in a third-wicket stand of 186 with Michael Lumb, who went on to make a career-best 144 in a six-hour stint, an innings which included 24 boundaries and was the sixth first-class hundred of the left-hander's career.

Vaughan then found time to take stock of his state of fitness. "Tomorrow morning we'll know how well the knee has been tested."

Then, donning his England captain's cap, he addressed the issue of Andrew Flintoff's fitness and gave the broadest of hints that his stand-in captain for the drawn series against Sri Lanka might well need a minor operation on his left ankle.

"I have spoken about Freddie to Duncan and a couple of the medical people," Vaughan said, "and whatever happens to Fred we need him fully fit and firing whenever he comes back. If he needs a little bit of an operation or he needs to rest, he's got to have it. He is a crucial member of our team. His ankle scan is probably not as critical as Wayne Rooney's at this minute, because the World Cup starts this weekend. But he is important to our team."