Injuries hamper England plans
Injuries will restrict England’s options when the selectors meet up to discuss the squad for next week’s third npower Test against West Indies at Old Trafford.
Chairman of selectors David Graveney will consult with coach Peter Moores and fellow selector Geoff Miller about their preferred combinations for the next squad, which is due to be announced on Sunday morning.
But unlike other selection discussions they have had this summer, injuries have eased rather than complicated their thoughts and England are expected to announce an unchanged 12-man squad to take to Manchester.
Chairman of selectors David Graveney said: “I feel for all the injured players because it is never easy for them, but the current situation means we don’t have as many decisions to make.
“As selectors we would prefer to have as many people as possible in contention, but the injuries we have at the moment are giving other people a chance to stake their claims.”
England had hoped to have both key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and seamer Matthew Hoggard back in contention for next week’s Test, but both have suffered untimely setbacks in their fitness battles.
Flintoff, ruled out of the first two Tests with more trouble with his left ankle, had hoped to feature for Lancashire against Sussex at Hove but broke down again and faces an exploratory operation this weekend to determine the extent of the injury.
Yorkshire seamer Hoggard was more hopeful of recovering from the thigh injury which restricted him to only 10.1 overs in the drawn opening Test at Lord’s and sidelined him completely for last week’s emphatic triumph at Headingley Carnegie.
Hoggard had hoped to play club cricket for Baildon on Saturday as a warm-up to returning for Yorkshire in Sunday’s Friends Provident Trophy match against Durham the following day but suffered a recurrence of the injury this week.
At least England received some good news this week with Ian Bell, forced off the field for long periods during the Headingley Test with a stiff back, having recovered to keep his place in the squad.
Bell was intending to test his back injury playing for Warwickshire against Worcestershire at New Road after coach Peter Moores released nearly the whole squad to play in the Friends Provident Trophy.
Owais Shah may be put on stand-by for the squad just in case Bell suffers any recurrence having been dropped from the squad for Headingley to accommodate the return of captain Michael Vaughan.
Shah failed in both innings during the opening Test at Lord’s - when three other players scored centuries - but is regarded as the next in line should Bell suffer an untimely setback.
Ryan Sidebottom is likely to retain his place in the squad following his spectacular comeback to Test cricket at Headingley, where he claimed eight wickets on his first appearance in six years.
Perhaps the only selection dilemma for England is which seam bowler to use alongside Sidebottom and Steve Harmison with Liam Plunkett and James Anderson competing for the final place.
While England’s options are relatively straightforward, the tourists seem in disarray after suffering an innings and 283-runs defeat at Headingley and losing captain Ramnaresh Sarwan to a shoulder injury for the remainder of the tour in the process.
They have since replaced Sarwan with Daren Ganga as captain and brought in Marlon Samuels as his replacement, but they are unlikely to find much sympathy from England’s camp at their predicament.
“I don’t remember anybody feeling too sorry for us when we had difficult times,” claimed Graveney.
“As a team we can’t start thinking about West Indies’ troubles, we’ve just got to be as ruthless and professional as possible.”